Since all of us here in Lebanon are in revolutionary mode these days (67 days no less & counting), I’d like to tell you a small story:
In 2014, and in the run up to the 40th anniversary of the start of Lebanon’s civil war, local and independent publishing house NoirBlancEtCaetera thought of commemorating this painful chapter in our history with a book. The premise was all about hope and not giving up on Lebanon, to be individually expressed by a varied group of Lebanese authors, writing a message to Lebanon and a declaration that despite all the ups and downs, all the challenges and lost opportunities, there was still hope for Lebanon. The project was delayed but revived earlier this year, and writers were informed during the summer that the book was set to be officially launched in mid-October. Our beautiful October 17 Lebanese Revolution delayed the official launching, but it still happened in the midst of our revolution, despite the odds. And in all honesty, I do not think there could have been any better time to publish and launch it anyway.
“Liban: Message pour un pays” (“Lebanon: Message for a Country”) is a collection of 57 essays, articles and letters sent to Lebanon, written when many of us were tired of dreaming of a better Lebanon, but still hoped that we wouldn’t only have to see that better Lebanon in our dreams. Lebanon has always been about schizophrenia and contradictions, and our feelings couldn’t be any different. I am proud to have been part of this project, with an essay -“Comment Ceci Peut-il Ne Plus Se Reproduire” (“How Can it Not Happen Again”) – summarizing a lot of what I have been writing about Lebanon during almost 8 years on this blog.
As you may have have already guessed, the book is in French, so apologies in advance for all those who don’t gave a grasp on the language. But if you do, please consider buying the book, supporting a local independent publisher and at the same time, taking some time to reflect on where all this revolutionary energy came from, and how this revolution has never been about why, but when.
For those who won’t be reading it, I’d like to leave you with these two paragraphs from my essay:
The guns may have fallen silent in 1990, but that wasn’t enough to lay the foundations for a genuine and lasting peace. As long as we are far from a secular, merit-based and just social democracy, that embraces our diversity and doesn’t exploit it for sectarian and feudal gains, there will always be a crisis waiting around the corner. More importantly, the foundations for peace, prosperity and stability cannot exist while all those who participated in the Civil War, in one way or another, continue to play an active role in politics today. Those who led us in war will never be able to lead us in peace. Never.
But sometimes I fear, that I will read this in ten years, sitting on the doorsteps of a small picturesque house in a faraway land, its roof fitted with red brick tiles to remind me of Lebanon. I may laugh at myself for thinking that there was something left in Lebanon to believe in and that this country would finally learn from its past. But I could also still be here in Lebanon, still ambivalent, but with something to justify my optimism, that after over 50 years since the outbreak of the war, Lebanon has survived, but also learned and truly remembered, for it not to happen again.
The first one is about the slogan that we will never tire to shout in the streets, “all of them means all of them,” (كلن يعني كلن), while the second one is about hope. For the first time since the end of the civil war, for the first time in 30 years, and despite the political, financial, economic and social crisis this country is facing, there is hope.
Yet, the road is long, and this is only the beginning, but at least now, for the first time, we can all truly believe, that the change we have relentlessly written and talked about is actually possible.