Distributed in the U. By Interlink. Ghada Samman who moved to Beirut and lived there during the war. Hoda Barakat wrote. The Tiller of Waters. Of vignettes she called Beirut Nightmares.
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Quand finira ce cauchemar? Sa langue ne craint pas le censeur. No one would have dared come near us, not even a thief! Shells and bombs were the only things willing to hazard paying us a visit, to come knocking on our doors and walls..
They were two and three months old, and all of them spoke about death, murder, cadavers, kidnapings and our bitter, intractable civil war. In fact, this has caused a near-complete estrangement between me and my maternal uncles in Syria. Is it possible that the sniper on top of the Holiday Inn might succeed in breaking my spirit? I was a daughter of this land, a daughter of this Arab region so ridden with unrest and turmoil that it threatened to boil over at any moment.
I was also a daughter of this war. This was my destiny. And if such a change did occur, then their descendants simply inherited the kingdom of their fathers, cloaking themselves in the same Ottoman-like mentality and manners which with age had gone musty and putrid. And like most members of my own family, Amin secretly hated me. I thought. How is it that people who go cruising on yachts at Hotel St George or ice-skating at the Cedars Hotel could have failed to notice the tents of the hungry scattered along the sides of the roads as they headed for their resorts and places of entertainment?
How could they have seen, yet not seen? I heard the sound of it striking the wooden door, then the chair, the bed and finally the other door. The room was filled with the peculiar odour of something burning.
Either a bullet or a piece of shrapnel had pierced one edge of the door leading to the room. After entering the room, it had blown the chair leg apart, then collided with the bed and ricocheted off it on to the other door, punching a hole through it. I stood there in a daze, staring at the aftermath.
Splinters of wood covered the floor, the bed and my hair, as well as the magazines scattered all over the floor, and I stared in horror at the places where the object had been… … …There was something that terrified me also…I had always thought that bullets with which this was my first real-life encounter took off in a straight line, then kept on going until they hit their target.
However, this bullet or splinter had moved through the room like a billiard ball or a frightened cat. It shot in all directions, destroying my military theories about the safety of staying at ground level or of lying down flat. La vie de la narratrice bascule alors. The night air seemed to make it all the louder, like the sound of hungry birds of prey screeching over a floating corpse.
Right before my very eyes, my beloved was torn to shreds. As the bullet penetrated him it thrust him forward. He collapsed on to an airline display window, which shattered and turned into knives of glass that pierced him.
Next off came his belt. Three hours later, five corpses were found in a Beirut side street. Their head had been severed and what remained of their bodies bore the mark of brutal torture. Amassing the horrors of the previous months before my very eyes, the newspapers transformed them into a film strip that went gliding through my head filled with savage brawls and a raucous, nightmarish din.
She looked frightened. Her hand was trembling, and now and then she would drop the clothes pegs. Nevertheless, she kept gathering the clothes, looking around furtively as if she were stealing them. Then suddenly a shot was fired. Had it landed in her stomach — in the foetus heart, or in her own heart? She fell to the balcony floor and out of sight. I used to hear people say : whoever opens a school closes a prison. Well, I regret the fact that I ever attended school.
All it did was distract me from seeing the tragedy that Lebanon was living through. Quelle logique nous guide? I felt something hot touch my right ear, then collide with the wall behind me just as some glass was shattering. I could feel the fire ablaze in my ear even before the bullet had stolen in the house. It was pitch dark. Listening closely, I was transformed suddenly into a single, huge ear.
I detected a distinctive scent in the air — the scent of fear. And her sister Maryam? It had become difficult to carry on a logical, coherent conversation with anyone at all. What a tragedy it would be if everything really did go back to the way it had been! And blessings be upon everything that they burn or destroy. For now I too know what hungry truly means! La seule distinction homme-animal a elle un sens?
Or was he just not able to get to them? Neither sun nor wind nor dew nor blue sky could reach them. I heard nothing but the moans and wails of the creatures in the pet shop. Their voices seemed laden with fear, anxiety, anger and confusion.
Or was I just hearing my own inner voice? Why did their voices haunt me so? What was the common something between us? Might I have been one of them without realizing it? Around the beginning of every month the fighting would die down a bit, so everyone would go running to collect his salary — or half or a quarter of it, depending on what kind of mood his boss was in.
When will cowardice and submission become second nature to me? He appeared to have been totally unaware of the fact that even peaceable domestic creatures can become hungry enough and enraged enough to bare their fangs. Abattu par un sniper, y perdra la vie. My body had also begun to bleed from all its pores. The explosion threw me to the floor, and I was afraid and alone, but bleeding only on the inside! It was an unbelievably nightmarish silence, like the stillness that must reign inside coffins that have been shut up for hundreds of years.
However, rather than soaring into clouds of dreams, I made a slippery descent into the abyss of nightmares. Instead, it was as if I were supended in midair, surrounded on all sides by the winds of the night and the unknown. Winds laden with poisoned rain were whistling through shuttered windows whose glass portions had been left open, the result being that the light remained outside while the biting, wintry cold came streaming in. But is it really another world? Here I was living on a battlefield and seeking to protect my body by reciting verses from Al-Mutanabbi as if they were some kind of incantation that should shield me from harm!
My father had been a man of learning and piety. It was a dialogue. I seemed unable to read a book without doing so as if I were in some way rewriting it. Nor had I mastered the use of anything other than this skinny little object that went scurrying over the paper between my fingers, leaving quivering lines behind it like the trail of blood left by a wounded man crawling over a field of white cotton. And as I did so, it felt as if the act of writing were enclosing me on all sides like a coat of mail, garbing me with plate armour, and making me strong, like an ancient boulder in front of a storm.
But this bullet in particular looked to me at first as if it were the same length as my pen. Then it grew larger and larger until it became a pillar of fire. Meanwhile, my pen quaked before it, growing thinner and thinner until it had no more substance than a feather of a wounded bird, helpless in the face of a storm of fire. Copious flames were surging out of the windows and, in a moment of untold misery, I found myself face to face with what I had dreaded the more than anything else on earth : my library was on fire!
These were the only things I intended to take with me from this infernal place — that is, if I were destined to get out alive. Alone…alone, just as I always had been.
Beirut Nightmares de Ghada Samman