George Shami renewed the story and wrote the war novel from a right-wing perspective

In recent years, the narrator and novelist George Shami, who was approaching the end of the eighties, has been collecting everything he has been writing for some seventy years and has not published. It publishes book after book. Perhaps he felt that the time had come to replace what he had missed in his long journalistic life, and to restore his image as a prominent storyteller and novelist, which began in the mid-fifties when he launched his unique collection stories “Black ants” have published. (1955), when he was twenty-four years old. It is noteworthy that the poet Onsi Al-Hajj wrote a wonderful introduction to her when he was eighteen, in which he addressed the concept of absurdity as manifested in the stories of the group. From what Al-Hajj said in his introduction: “Why is man always threatened in George Shami’s stories? Why is he even disappointed in his rescue? Why is this a smothered project? Because George Shami is a contemporary retaliator. That is, because he is himself in his heroes in the fear of the age. “

This group is distinguished by its melancholic atmosphere, unfamiliar with the Lebanese short story, which is derived from the climate of rural and rural literature by the pens of the first and second generation. Georges Shami insisted on fictional art despite his long narrative self, which manifested itself in his later collections released during the Civil War. However, the political press briefly stole him from the world of the story, only to return as if the rift had never happened.

quiet room

George Shami passed away in silence a few days ago at the age of 91, and his death did not leave the room of an avant-garde and exceptional storyteller, and a novelist who has several works, including a very important novel, “What’s left of the fight?” It belongs to the Lebanese war novel. Perhaps the new generation does not know who George al-Shami is, and it is likely that the description of a political journalist overshadowed him, and hid his literary face. He began working in journalism in 1951 and immersed himself in it through his subsequent years until the age of seventy, but during this career he did not stop writing fiction, so he issued important collections that received clear attention at the time. , including “Yellow Boards” (1959), “Nerves of Fire” (1963), and “The Sand Flower” (1963). In his stories, George Shami seemed to have an authentic and modern voice and a special language rooted in Lebanese literature without being overwhelmed by any purely literary weight. The storyteller knew perfectly well how to open up to contemporary storytelling techniques, based on his literary background and culture. He joined the “Al Thuraya Circle”, which included a generation of young writers (1952-1960), and participated in the famous “Poetry” magazine founded by the poet Youssef Al-Khal, as’ a critic who follows up some poetic publications. . He held the post of secretary for the “Lebanese Symposium” founded by thinker Michel Asmar, which was a small, free and independent Ministry of Culture.

When the Civil War took place in 1975, a transformation took place in the life of Georges Shami, who found himself in the eastern region of Beirut, representing the voice of this region in fiction and non-fiction. At the time, George Shami seemed to be writing the story of the Civil War, but from a right-wing perspective. His underwater stories in and around the war represent the most prominent manifestations of the “eastern” war literature (so to speak) written in East Beirut, in contrast to other leftist and avant-garde war literature written by Lebanese in West Beirut. is, Palestinian and Iraqi novelists and poets … In addition to some literature that was difficult to categorize as “regional” or political, and in turn drowned in and around the war itself (Youssef Habashi al-Ashqar, Fouad Kanaan, Ghada al- Samman and others). However, the publication of Shami literature in the eastern region did not mean that it was a mouthpiece for right-wing parties or an announcer of sectarian and “isolationist” ideas. His stories were on a total break with right-wing militant thinking despite his “Oriental” affiliation, and at odds with the sectarian vision of the existing conflict. Rather, his stories began to expose the absurdity of this war from the beginning, questioning its aims and condemning its makers, distinguishing between butchers and victims, but based on the reality that happened to be East Beirut.

In his stories, for the first time, negative heroes belonging to well-known right-wing parties appeared, and these heroes were not familiar with the Lebanese story that circulated during the war, especially in West Beirut. The heroes of the avant-garde Lebanese stories often belonged to either the left or the Palestinian resistance, according to the rise of the hero-fighter model first and the left’s dominance of literature or culture in general. At the height of the war, Shami published two notable collections, “Dimensions Without A Homeland” and “A Homeland Without Gravity”, and they were welcomed by the cultural press, even the patriotic or the left. of anxiety, passion and enthusiasm, which gives his language a firm and relentless nerve.

return novel

Shortly after the war years, Georges Shami emigrated to Paris and London to work in the Arab immigrant press. He was absent from the publishing arena for a long time, returning to Beirut in 1998. Shami returned to literary life after has been cut off for nearly fifteen years. However, his disappearance from the literary struggle shortly after his Paris emigration did not mean that he stopped writing fiction. In the same year, he released a new collection of short stories bearing a strange title, “Qudesat Aloho”, a phrase repeated by the Maronites in the liturgy. Georges Shami wanted to reprint his previous collections of stories that established his position in the contemporary Lebanese literary movement as an avant-garde and innovative storyteller. Dar Al-Jadeed, founded by author Luqman Selim and his sister Rasha Al-Amir, accepted the collections and issued them in a beautiful outfit.

In 2003, George Shami released a novel called What Remains of the Fight? (Dar Riyad Al Rayes), and he wrote it for a period of almost twenty years. He started it in Beirut in 1982, then completed it in London in 1999 and completed it in Paris in 2002, but the reader of the story does not mind this state of temporary scattering, even though the story seems to be spinning in the climate. . in which the two groups that released “Abaad Without A Homeland” and “A Homeland Without Gravity” during the war took place. The publisher, and perhaps the author, put the phrase “a long story” on the cover, but the text of about 150 pages seemed like a true novel, even if it was short. It includes many narratives. techniques (cut, flashback, dialogue, description, association …), which make it possible to describe it as a short novel or “short story” as described in English.

Shami opens his novel through the voice of his hero Balaam, who turns the story on its tongue (I am the narrator) with a few interventions: happy when he tells some scenes of the war, as well as the author himself when he tells the end described by Balaam and others … The opening moment is one of the last moments that Balaam experiences devastatingly He suffers from “blue-end disease”, which made his color pale and left his hands and feet constantly cold. Balaam begins the moment he thinks back to the past, and addresses one of his mistresses, “Your shoes are in my mouth, please …”, but he quickly recalls the story of his love for the girl Leah, who is also his wife has become. as the memories of the cathedral, and he, in accord with some of yesterday’s comrades in the war, came to celebrate a mass in which they would be reconciled Over their sins and their past full of sins, murder, and violence. They came to make amends for their military past in the civil war, after being included in the amnesty law and “purifying” them, as Balaam puts it, whose “insiders still rise up like a slaughtered chicken”, and ” doubt “still chases him like a whip.

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The beginning of the novel is an open snapshot of the past and the present at the same time: a destructive present manifested by the psychological and physical disability that Balaam lives, and he realizes that he has a burden on others and on life became self, and a past divided into more than one past: the recent past (the past of war), the past The distant or personal past (memories of love, memories of the cathedral, father, family … ).

In his story, George Shami relies on the parallel play between multiple times, many places, situations and “memories”. As he writes the story of Balaam, who, along with his right-wing or Christian companions, fights the battles of “the hotels”, “Kantari” and the “fourth district”, he writes the story of the cathedral, which houses the cathedral of St. George, located on the line of contact in divided Beirut, as a place, time and group, as a reality and a past. And he was truly capable of combining multiple dates, places, and personalities, in a narrative substance legitimized on documentation and imagination, as well as on reality, dream, and nightmare.

In this novel, Georges Shami brought readers back to one of the most uncertain and shaky phases of the Lebanese war, reopening the wound of the “two-year war” that is difficult to heal, despite the alleged end of the war, and doubt the motives and results of that war.

Among George Shami’s books are: “Awal al-Zahab”, “Naked Memories”, “Zinzalakht Juice”, “Window Dog”, “Crying Conch”, “In the Dock” and others.

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