Limbo Beirut (Paperback)
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University, 9781477310052, 220pp.
Publication Date: August 31, 2016
In Hilal Chouman's Limbo Beirut, a gay artist, a struggling novelist, a pregnant woman, a disabled engineering student, a former militia member, and a medical intern all take turns narrating the violent events of May 2008, when Hezbollah militants and Sunni fighters clashed in the streets of Beirut. For most of these young men and women, the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) is but a vague recollection, but the brutality of May 2008 serves to reawaken forgotten memories and stir up fears of a revival of sectarian violence. Yet despite these fears, the violence these characters witness helps them to break free from the mundane details of their lives and look at the world anew.
The multiple narrative voices and the dozens of pen-and-ink illustrations that accompany the text allow Chouman to achieve a mesmerizing cinematic quality with this novel that is unique in modern Arabic fiction. Not only will readers appreciate the meaningful exploration of the effects of violence on the psyche, but they will also enjoy discovering how the lives of these characters--almost all of whom are strangers to one another--intersect in surprising ways.