“Beirut Noir” is a book published in 2015, edited by Iman Hunaydan, and made up of 15 short stories written by 14 Lebanese writers, and 1 Palestinian writer who was born and raised in Beirut.
The short stories were written during the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War by Tarek Abi Samra, Zena El Khalil, Bana Beydoun, Najwa Barakat, Hyam Yared, Leila Eid, Rawi Hage, The Amazin’ Sardine, Mazen Maarouf, Bachir Hilal, Hala Kawtharani, Mohamad Abi Samra, Abbas Beydoun, Alawiya Sobh, and Marie Tawk.
The book includes noir fiction, ambiguity, mystery, and travel literature, all of which are used to depict and make sense of Lebanon during such times.
Reading “Beirut Noir”, in our present days, however, instigates a sense of déjà vu yet can also be used as a wake-up call to the whole Lebanese nation in order to create parallels between Lebanon’s past dark days and the current ones, and seek change.
Of the 15 short stories in the book, many were written in Arabic, French, and English (the original language in which the story was written is mentioned at the end of each story) but Michelle Hartman translated the Arabic and French stories to English.
Many of the short stories discuss Lebanese stereotypes and the pain and misery of its people.
Rawi Hage, in one of the short stories of the book, “Bird Nation”, blatantly and explicitly discusses the emigration of people, the corruption of the Lebanese politicians, and the oppression that the people are experiencing because of them; the three phenomena that dominate Lebanon’s current state too.
As authors, through their Lebanese identities, have experienced the ugliness of the civil war and its effects on themselves as well as on Beirut, the book can also be seen as a close representation of what Lebanon has been witnessing now.
Since history seems to always repeat itself in Lebanon, “Beirut Noir” reimplements the unforgettable memories of the explosions that have occurred before and makes close sense to the August 4, 2020 explosion.
Here is an excerpt from “The Thread Of Life”, one of the short stories written by Hala Kawtharni that discusses explosions:
Further accentuating the recurring events that mark the history of Lebanon, its people, and its politician, Rawi Hage mentions the brain drain that happened before and is now happening again.
Rawi Hage, mentions it in his short story, “Bird Nation” and instigates a wake-up call for the people:
In times of severe destruction, war, and oppression, resorting to Lebanese literature is a core value to hold on to in order to understand the complexity of the world that Lebanese people have come to live in.
As the aftermath of the Civil War and the melancholy of people seem similar to the current events (both eras instigating a sense of displacement within Lebanese people), resorting back to Lebanese literature, especially “Beirut Noir”, might make people grasp a sense of identification and comfort.