T building. in. Taxi” in Beirut spinning like a dervish and spitting out its inhabitants
Ziad Kaj monitors the transformations of the Lebanese capital
Wednesday – 18 Jumada II 1444 AH – 11 January 2023 AD Issue Number [
Beirut: Sawsan Al-Abtah
A new literary work will be published in a few days by the Lebanese novelist and poet Ziad Kaj, entitled “T Building. in. Taxi”, in which he tells about the transformations of Beirut, specifically the area in which he lived as a child , in the “Zahid” building, through which he witnessed the changes and conditions of the city.
Kaj takes us through the book published by “Dar Nelson” and carries the subtitle “The Pine Trees, Ras Beirut” on a journey through time, to this region of the Lebanese capital, which has remained the pride of its people because of the diversity of its inhabitants, their tolerance and their coexistence, even during the period of civil war. . Since the people of “Ras Beirut”, including the author of the book, insist that it is the most beautiful and distinguished area of the city, and that every street, building and tree in it bears witness to important events that not only the history of Lebanon, but the region as a whole.
The main character in the book is the “al-Zahid” building, which is located in the Al-Sawnabra neighborhood, in relation to a large pine tree located in the place. The narrator says: “The conditions of the residents of the Al-Zahid building changed during the war, after the electricity was cut, the water was rationed and the streets were lawless. They needed us more than the caretaker’s children. Their treatment of us has improved, especially those I blacklisted earlier, such as Madame Boursali, Ghazi Bou Zain Al-Mashouf, who does not laugh warmly. bread, and Emile Al-Batrouni, who once conspired with (Abu Boz) to get rid of my father, and bring a new developer for the building.
In the book, we go back to before the Lebanese Civil War, so the author – the narrator tells about the building in which the author grew up, grew up and went to school, and he didn’t leave it until he got married. . But the nostalgia for the neighborhood and Ras Beirut did not leave him. He previously wrote more than one book about Beirut, the most prominent of which is his novel “Beirut: A Box in the Sea, Fire on a Hill”.
In his new book, Kaj is neither ruled by nostalgia, nor inhabited by nostalgia. Rather, it records a “biography of Makan,” as publisher Suleiman Bakhti described the text. The biography of a building seems to the author “as if it were spinning while performing the dance of the dervish, pronouncing people and receiving others according to the stage. Before the two-year war it was in one state, and after that the population became something else. Before the Israeli invasion in 1982, it was inhabited by a different group than the one that came there after the invasion. Then comes the stage of Rafik Hariri, who lived in the region and influenced it. Every time there are those who die, emigrate or change their place of travel, and the architecture remains in its place, to this day.
The owners of the building changed, as did its inhabitants, and the writer’s father, his trusted caretaker, and his son Ziyad al-Kaj, who was still a child at the time, kept watching what was happening, to make a writer becomes for us the story of what became known during the civil war in the “T” building. in. Taxi”, because of the taxi office that was stationed there and its big yellow American vehicles parked around it. As for the Christian mother, she is a link and a bridge with the residents, and she still lives there with her daughter.
Two main events that the people of the neighborhood lived through. The narrator saw them as a child and was a witness to them. the assassination of three Palestinian leaders in 1973; They are Kamal Nasser, Kamal Adwan and Abu Yusuf al-Najjar, who was still nine years old, when the assassination of Abu Hassan Salameh in 1979 in the same street with a car bomb, when he was fifteen years old.
Dozens of families, Armenians, Muslims, Christians, a senior official of Jehovah’s Witnesses, light-hearted, modest and others of different denominations, settled in the large building, which is located on a corner and a crossroads and is seven stories high , established. , each with five apartments. (The reader can discover the building on the cover of the beautiful book whose painting was designed by Yusuf Doğan.)
By following some of the characters, we understand the psychology of the place and the depths of the people. There is Coco, the Armenian hairdresser, who, despite the war, moved easily between the eastern and western parts of Beirut, and through his formation became part of the Ras Beirut area. The day Koko or Krikor (which was his original name) was forced to move to an Armenian majority area in Bourj Hammoud, he lost his balance, lost his luster and appeared pale and old.
There is a whole chapter on Muhammad Michel al-Gharib, who was a resident of the street, in a nearby building. He is a well-known figure to his contemporaries in the seventies of the last century, being a Maronite who converted to Islam and worked in politics. He is the son of the mountain, and instead of being under the wings of his sect, he joined the Socialist Party and Kamal Jumblatt, who also did not take him seriously. So Muhammad Michel Al-Gharib, who graduated from the Faculty of Law at the Lebanese University, worked as a lawyer and opened an office for himself, remained a stranger in the eyes of many people, but he left us beautiful books omitted, the most enjoyable of which is “Maronite Memoirs.”
“I wanted to dedicate a whole chapter in the book to him,” says Kaage, “to show that the pure and human person is being trampled and crushed in our country. Camille Chamoun could not forgive Muhammad Michel, the stranger, a Maronite, who left the leader of his sect and joined Jumblatt, so he continued to fight him until he had already crushed him.
There is also Abu Ali, who has taken the place of the narrator’s father and his family as a porter, and they only care that he returns to his village from which he was expelled, and that is what he has actually achieved, after he joined the Communists. Party that colored the majority of the region’s population, then he changed his tendencies like many others.
Kaj says: “I don’t remember the children of the average families in our region carrying a weapon, or participating in the war. The people’s concern was that she was raising her children and surviving on her own, especially since there was a period when schools were closed.
At this time two schools opened their doors to the children of the neighborhood, the “Italian School” near the Bristol Hotel, and the “Rawda School.” The author says: “It is nice for a principal to think, when educational life is disrupted, of opening his institution to the neighbors’ children so that they can play football or basketball and have a good time in ‘ a difficult time. “
In the book, a return to Hamra Street, the glory days of the early seventies, with its many cinemas, “The Strand”, “Hamra” and “Coliset”, his favorite films, and his pioneers. The Kaj family lived there, before they were stationed in the Zahid building. It was the day when the Lebanese gendarmerie and “Brigade 16” in particular had prestige that has not recovered, and buying “popcorn” before entering the cinemas was not within the reach of all people, so they replace it with peanuts.
The narrator ends, talking about the present tense, on his visit to his mother and sister in the Al-Zahid building, and his reflection on what his area ended up with, and what became the Al-Sanawra neighborhood. He says: “People’s faces have indeed changed, and yet Ras Beirut, although it has lost some of its human diversity, is still a place incomparable to any other district in the capital.”
T building. in. Taxi» is not a novel, but rather an open text in which the narrator wanders, in the corners of a dear area of the Lebanese capital, which is the heart, pulse and vitality. One of his children wanders back and forth in time, reflects on the faces that crossed it, from the seventies of the last century to today, and draws through his various people the story of half a century and a half of the life of An Arab city up. it is not like all cities.