Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Artistic Fallout from the July 2006 War: Momentum, Mediation, and Mediatization

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Artistic Fallout from the July 2006 War: Momentum, Mediation, and Mediatization

Article excerpt

Introduction: Capturing Lebanon's Wars Then and Now

In her memoir Beirut, I Love You, Zena el Khalil visits a bookshop wherein she comes across a section featuring works by Lebanese authors: "They were all about the civil war. That war ended fifteen years ago, and we're still writing about it. Will we always only write about war?" (2009: 109). Zena's observation corroborates assessments of (most) cultural workers' unabated obsession with the 19751990 mayhem. Guided by Pierre Bourdieu's analysis of literature as a locus of competition for symbolic capital, Felix Lang (2016) argues that young Lebanese authors feel compelled to continue dealing with the civil war in order to be accredited to the local literary arena by consecrated older authors like Elias Khoury and Rashid al-Daif. The civil war has been credited with developing the modern experimental Lebanese novel in the 1970s and 1980s because it broke many social, sexual, religious, and moral taboos (Elias Khoury, cited in Kacimi, 2007: 15), thus shattering "the notion of a knowable, objective reality" (Seigneurie, 2003: 22). Lang notes further that the period between the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005-which prompted the so-called Cedar Revolution and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops in the same year-and the beginning of the July 2006 war-which erupted on July 12, 2006, after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers in hopes of securing the release of hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians held by the Israelis1-"was marked by an increased interest in the [civil] war" (2016: 194).

The civil war still casts a long shadow over post-1990 cultural and scholarly production despite the conflict of 2006, also known as the 33-Day War or the 34-Day War. This could be due to the fact that many Lebanese do not feel that they had anything to do with the more recent violence except to suffer from its consequences. Unlike the civil war, in which most citizens belonged to and/or identifed with one political faction or another based on sectarianism but sometimes also on political ideology, many Lebanese did not "claim" this war as their own due to their disagreement with Hizbullah's agenda, tactics, and strategies. Nonetheless, the impact of the July War on just about every aspect of Lebanese life-such as the economy, the environment, industry, infrastructure, agriculture, education, and the mental health of young and old alike-has been subjected to considerable study. A large number of books and articles published in journals, magazines, newspapers, and edited volumes-in print and online, and from both sides of the conflict-have appeared. The war's influence on the production of literature remains under-researched, however, as critics remain preoccupied with civil warrelated topics. Apart from book reviews and short review essays in local newspapers, it is surprising that over ten years after this brutal incident there is still no study of literary texts which incorporate the newer war, whether of the (admittedly few) Anglophone or the more numerous Arabo- and Francophone Lebanese ones. Next, I provide an overview of this corpus to encourage scholarship.

The July 2006 War in Multilingual Literatures: Local and International Markets

If the outbreak of the civil war helped birth a new Lebanese novel, the 2006 war and subsequent political disturbances also helped revitalize existing modes of artistic production and invent new ones. Youssef Bazzi states that "the new[er] Lebanese novel was born of the traumas of July 2006 and May 2008" (2013: 9).2 Three young Arabic-language authors-all born in the 1980s-have distinguished themselves in a style befitting their own generation by reflecting (on) the 2006 war, which they consider "their own" because they were too young to witness and/ or remember much of the civil war. Ghenwa Hayek's observation that the July War became the "catalyst for the outpouring of the recollections of a new generation-one whose childhood is inexorably bound up with the period of silence" (2015: 189) applies to many young artists. …

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