Beirut Noir ed. by Iman Humaydan

I loved this book. In fact, so far, this has been my favorite in the Noir series. I did wonder at times what may have been lost in translation between Arabic and English but that did not deter me from continuing to read nor did it detract from my enjoyment of this book.

I think the editor made excellent choices in the material. It represented sections of the city of Beirut and while war was an important theme, and how could it not be given the sheer number of years that conflict has permeated the landscape, it was not the only theme.

One of the fun aspects was understanding the experience of natives who both stayed in the city and those that left and returned after time away, often in former colonial enclaves. It was great to see the influences of all the cultures and religious experiences that have shaped Beirut.

My picks? “The Bastard” by Tarek Abi Samra; “Beirut Apples” by Leila Eid; “Rupture” by Bachir Hilal; and “The Thread of Life” by Hala Kawtharani. My least favorite was originally written in English and is called “Dirty Teeth” by the Amazin’ Sardine. Still, the writing was very poetic and I have to say, there were some very beautiful endings to some of the stories.

There is a certain poetry and movement to Arabic writing that once you get into the flow (as in the flow in English) you come to appreciate it. I was also happy to note the role – even tangentially, that Australia played in a few of the stories. Having lived in Australia and made several Lebanese friends, I was able to look at and appreciate things they had shared about being Lebanese and being Australian.

Loved it. Recommend it. Keep and open mind and an open heart while reading it.

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