Magazine article World Literature Today

Beirut Noir

Magazine article World Literature Today

Beirut Noir

Article excerpt

Beirut Noir. Iman Humaydan, ed. Michelle Hartman, tr. New York. Akashic Books. 2015. 288 pages.

In Beirut Noir, Iman Humaydan has selected a beautiful and often heartbreaking jigsaw portrait of its eponymous city. Like many of the volumes in Akashic's noir series, this anthology of stories immerses the reader in a stark vision of a place stripped of its tourist-friendly veneer.

In Zena el Khalil's gorgeous story, "Maya Rose," the spirit of a stillborn girl explores the city's coastline, from the warscarred buildings to the network of lonely streets and death to come, where anything may yet be possible, even second chances. In Hala Kawtharani's "The Thread of Life," a doctor numb to the pain he's witnessed walks through a neighborhood where "even the rain has become violent" and contemplates a comatose patient who has made him feel again. Rawi Hage's tragicomic skewering of Beirut's inhabitants and their vulgar displays of social stature in "Bird Nation" is a brief but hysterical-untilit's-not must-read.

The collection is split into three titled sections, and each section into stories assigned to neighborhoods or streets, creating a diverse and multi-angular entry into Beirut, with all its dust and grit, beaten by sectarian violence and authoritarian corruption yet still standing despite what's been thrown its way. …

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