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Beirut '75 by Ghada al-Samman: An Autobiographical Interpretation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by George N. El-Hage   
Monday, 16 April 2012 08:47



“All ye who enter here, abandon all hope!”[i]

 

“Beirut has ruined me, that’s all!”[ii] 

“That’s not true,” he replied, “You women all accuse Beirut of ruining you when the truth of the matter is that the seeds of corruption were already deep inside you.  All Beirut did was to give them a place to thrive and become visible.  It’s given them a climate where they can grow.”[iii]

 

“She wondered to herself…– if they had allowed my body to experience wholesome, sound relationships in Damascus – would I have lost my way to this extent?”[iv]

 

 

_______________________________________________

 

               In Beirut ‘75, Ghada al-Samman shockingly depicts the tragic lives of fictitious characters who find themselves in Beirut, Lebanon prior to the outbreak of the war.  Heralded by many critics as being a work that prophesied the Lebanese civil war, Beirut ‘75 is instead a work that expresses the existential and political views of its author and not the complete reality of the socio-political situation at that critical moment in Lebanese history.  Even though Ghada al-Samman argues that the work is not autobiographical and that she does not profess any particular political stance, the work is permeated with her political views and her own personal life experience.  The city of Beirut, torn between the East and the West, can even be viewed as a metaphor for the author herself.

In his book, Ghada al-Samman Without Wings,[v]  Ghali Shoukry states that a literary work should not be studied in the context of the author’s life even though the author’s autobiography is one of  the vital elements in the creation of the artwork.  Once the work has been created, Shoukry contends, the author’s life should remain distant from an analysis of the work itself.  While I agree in theory with Shoukry’s position, I believe that since al-Samman has intentionally revealed so much about herself and about Beirut ‘75 in her personal and carefully documented interviews, an autobiographical approach to this work is justified and, at the very least, enlightening.  In the first part of this study, I present a summary of relevant autobiographical details on Ghada al-Samman.  In the second part, I show how these details relate specifically to Beirut ‘75.

               Ghada al-Samman is a successful Arab novelist, journalist, and publisher.  She is considered to be one of the most prolific woman writers in Arabic today.  Al-Samman is a fiercely independent thinker who refuses to compromise her beliefs even under the most trying circumstances.  Although she is a staunch promoter of women’s rights and focuses on gender issues, nevertheless she refuses to be labeled a “feminist author.”  She argues, and rightly so, that writing is a constant pursuit after that “golden bird called creativity”[vi] and that “there is only one alphabet which is neither masculine nor feminine.”[vii]  She firmly believes that creativity has no gender. Nor do the issues that plague the Arab countries whether they be social, political, economic, religious or otherwise.  “It is a biological coincidence that I was born a female,” she says, for “I am a mere writer who happens to be a woman ... and I cannot write to the tune of a boiling pot.”[viii]  She demands to be read as an Arab author regardless of her gender:  

 

I labor just like any other man, and I am capable of supporting myself and my child just like any other citizen. I am merely another Arab citizen who has the right and the obligation to do what he does best.  It never occurred to me to give up writing after my marriage.  Have you seen a man who submitted his resignation from work because he got married?  If it were inevitable that you should view my status as an Arab female, all I can say is that my success is a victory for the Arab working woman, a confirmation of her existence... as a revolutionary power... a force of positive reform.[ix]

 

Al-Samman totally dismisses the argument that part of her mystery and appeal is the fact that her 

stories are mostly about love, sex, marriage, scandalous relationships, honor, war and Arab nationalism.  All are hot and intriguing topics to most Arab readers especially when written by a  young, independent, adventurous, upper middle class Arab woman with a charming personality and an exquisite style.  Her personal interviews reveal an almost mysterious personality who deliberately defies the traditional role of a domesticated, married Arab woman and mother.  Instead, she enjoys a successful career, is independently wealthy, and argues that a real writer need not live poor and be deprived of expensive material things.  Al-Samman says, “I do not think that it is the duty of the writer to be poor as was customary during the Middle Ages.  Money means freedom, traveling, beautiful books... Music... and I am not ashamed of my love for music, books and traveling.”[x]  In addition, al-Samman conspicuously admits her belief in reincarnation [xi] and asserts her passion to travel at night, to own more than one luxurious, elegantly furnished home, to live in a palace,[xii]  to drive fast sport cars, to eat in fancy restaurants and to rent hotel rooms to write without disturbances.  She constantly travels alone to European capitals and also declares that she loves the open road, the sea, the sun, and she hates winter and rain.  She enjoys swimming in the ocean, reads constantly in English, loves Lebanon with its majestic nature and mythical weather, and her favorite bird is the owl which she considers a good omen.  All these characteristics add charm and heighten interest and curiosity in such an amazing woman.[xiii]  Without a doubt, Ghada al-Samman stands out as one of the most influential, popular, yet controversial, female writers in the Arab world today.   

               Al-Samman was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1942.  She has no vivid recollection of her mother who died when the author was a young child.  She was raised by her father and grandmother, although it was her father who played the most critical role in her upbringing:

 

My father occupied my childhood...My father and his friends...I did not play a lot in my childhood.  My relationship with the world of adults was always stronger than my relationships with my... schoolmates.  I don’t clearly recall my social childhood.  We lived in a small house.  My father...worked constantly and wrote...day and night...He tried to train me on asceticism and will power...we would walk at dawn…for four hours sometimes...With my father, I discovered the meaning of autumn in Damascus... I learned to love nature.  He was poor but honest....My grandmother was an illiterate seamstress who raised me.  She was a hard working woman who labored for years to educate her orphaned children and support them while they prepared for their doctoral studies in Paris.[xiv]

 

Al-Samman also describes her father as a self-made, strong willed, and self disciplined man who never got accustomed to the bourgeois life even after he had climbed the social ladder through his education and hard work.  Ahmad al-Samman was an educator, a university professor, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Damascus University, and later, the Minister of Education in Syria.[xv]  Having been brought up by such a dedicated, but serious man, and in such an intellectual and formal atmosphere, not withstanding the “atmosphere of fear, anxiety... and the horrifying uncertainty...of the world of the consecutive military coups d’etat in Syria...[al-Samman] became aware of all this long before [she] discovered [her] body.”[xvi] Al-Samaan feels that she missed out on the basic element of being a child.  She did not really have a normal childhood,[xvii] and, she longs to be a child and to relive those lost moments which she tries to capture when playing with her own only son, Hazim.  Although al-Samman was educated in Syria, Beirut, and London,[xviii]  she admits that she owes a lot of her determination, fighting spirit, and rich literary and musical background to her father’s constant tutoring and guidance.  He encouraged her to devour volumes of Medieval Arabic literature and criticism and to memorize the Holy Qur’an at an early age.[xix]

Ghada al-Samman was a wild child and a rebel.  She tells us that she heard, for the first time, stories about “sex…intercourse...and virginity” from a young, fourteen-year-old peasant girl.[xx]  Al-Samman was in her teens at the time and professes to have been “a hot adolescent girl... fierce, challenging and extremely daring.”[xxi]  She had an unquenchable curiosity.  She states that during her early years in Syria, and because of the extremely conservative milieu and the very strict upbringing that she had to endure, the results of her rebellious attitude reached destructive proportions and cost her dearly.  But the positive side of all this was that she became a strong willed woman and a survivalist, who learned to “worship” work and endure under any circumstances:

 

... I have been a working woman since I was a university student... In addition to my studies, I worked as a library employee, and an English teacher in a high school in Damascus.  I have known economic independence since my adolescent years and I have been working since, no matter what the circumstances. [xxii]

 

Al-Samman has always been a working woman who preferred to support herself financially.  She believes that total social independence and personal freedom primarily stem from financial independence and self-reliance.

In Syria, Ghada al-Samman was thought to be “mad,”[xxiii] and later on, was considered to be a “ fallen woman”[xxiv] because she was different, she dared to think freely and independently, to challenge the status quo and to spread her wings of thought and  “fly”[xxv] beyond the traditional norms of a conservative society.  From the beginning, she wanted to emphatically tell her story to the world.

Ghada al-Samman arrived in Lebanon in September of 1964 to study at the American University of Beirut.  French was her first language, followed by Arabic, and then English.  Ghada elaborates:

 

We have to be true to our ideals and dare to follow our principles to the end... and be logical no matter what the price...  This was my motto when I arrived to Beirut that evening in early 1964 to pursue my  Master’s degree in English Literature (at the AUB) after I had secured for myself a job in a high school to earn my living... My employment did not last for more than one month, for I quickly found out that working as a journalist suits my nature more.[xxvi] 

 

Between 1966 and 1969, al-Samman was working and traveling in Europe.  This was an important experience for her as a writer and helped her shape new ideas as well as come to terms with many of her previous convictions.  She soon realized that living away from an Arab homeland was not the answer.  Although she now “possesses her individual freedom,” she also discovered that “true belonging is a reality” and that her destiny was to return to an Arab country, any country, where she could feel home. However, she also realized that she was still in need of a relatively free political climate in order to be creative and productive because “freedom is impossible in a country that is not free.”[xxvii]  It is no mere coincidence that Ghada al-Samman, like two other prominent Syrian Arab poets, her cousin, Nizar Qabbani, and Ali Ahmad Said (Adunis), chose Beirut as their  residence instead of Damascus.  Al-Samman says:

 

I chose the sky of Beirut because the amount of (oxygen) in it was more abundant than in the other Arab skies.  Today, I see in Beirut a screen that reflects the extent of the Arab’s honesty and their ability to overcome their dilemma with democracy and freedom... and I repeat that the flourishing of the buds of freedom in Beirut is a positive indicator for the possibility of growth of one Arab region.[xxviii]

 

In addition to the outdated social traditions that classified her as an outcast and a “fallen woman,” another reason for al-Samman’s decision not to return to Syria could have been her problem with the Syrian authorities.  She relates that in the summer of 1966, while in London, her father passed away in Damascus.  At the same time, she was sentenced to jail for three months because she held a university degree and had left the country without official permission from the authorities.  Ghada al-Samman was dismissed from her job as a journalist with a Lebanese journal, and her entire family back home severed ties with her due to her rebellious spirit against outmoded customs and traditions, her way of life, and her burning desire for complete independence and freedom.  This meant that the flow of any financial support from the family stopped since it obviously did not come without strings attached.[xxix]  This was a trying period for al-Samman, the woman and the author. She suddenly found herself alone, facing, as she tells us, all the ancient and decayed social and political establishments:  the family, society and the law that considered her message dangerous.  Her call for freedom was viewed as corrupting to the youth, and her writings were a threat and a challenge. The author went through a process of self-evaluation and truly experienced exile, loneliness and poverty.  She came to know the meaning of true friendship and self-reliance. It was during this time that she also discovered her ultimate disdain for the worthless  and corrupt values of the bourgeois Damascene society that considered her to be a “ fallen woman.”[xxx]  In her mind, the judgment of such a backward and fake system could not have been farther from reality.

The years from 1966 to 1969 were absolutely the most critical and formative years for her as both a human being and a writer. These were the years that made her what she is now: “everything that I learned, I learned during these years of personal strife”[xxxi]  She also had the opportunity to live and experience the life of the lower social classes which her previous upper middle class upbringing did not afford.  “She even tried drugs (LSD).”[xxxii] As for her prison sentence, she finally, and with the help of a Syrian lawyer friend, was able to obtain a pardon from the Syrian president, in the early seventies.

Al-Samman was obsessed with dreams and nightmares, particularly in her two novels,  Beirut ‘75  and The Nightmares of Beirut.  Some of the most persistant dreams that al-Samman herself experienced are those of “Flying, ...the search for shelter, the feeling of being lost amid tens of similar labyrinths and elevators that open their doors onto hollow spaces.”[xxxiii]  Such dreams constantly haunt the author until today.  It is evident that al-Samman’s self-imposed exile from her homeland in order to avoid a prison sentence has left a permanent and damaging scar on her psyche.  She tells Ghali Shoukry about  “an endless amount of dreams all about returning to my home in Damascus, at Najma Square, where I find my father waiting for me and then suddenly, they push me to the midst of the square in order to execute me, while I go on screaming in agony: “Why did I return? ...”[xxxiv]

               In fact, al-Samaan never returned to Syria.  She remained in exile in Lebanon, married a Lebanese and became a Lebanese citizen.  She lived in Beirut in 1975, and unlike thousands of Lebanese people who left Lebanon during the war, she made a conscious effort to remain in Beirut during the early years of the war and endure with those who either chose to stay or who had no option to leave. During the war, al-Samman personally waited in long lines to get fresh water, to fill her car with gas, and to buy a loaf of bread.  She witnessed the explosions, the destruction, and the death of tens of innocent people.  She even tells how she trained to use a machine gun for self protection.[xxxv] 

               Al-Samman committed her career to defending the social and political causes of women and the working class.   According to al-Samman, sexual liberation must go hand in hand with economic and political liberation.  She says:

 

It is not a secret that I have come to believe that the sexual revolution...is an inseparable part of the Arab individual’s revolution to snatch the rest of his freedoms... Economical, political and the freedom of speech, of writing and thinking.  There is no other salvation save the struggle against all our various concepts including our sexual concepts and the struggle against the superficial bourgeois concept of freedom. Pornography, in my opinion, is a misleading representation of a just revolution where the individual immerses himself in a sexual act in order to escape the struggle on another front.[xxxvi]

              

Al-Samman’s job as a journalist in Lebanon demanded that she spend time visiting, investigating, and living in poor villages, prison cells, mental asylums and refugee camps.  As an investigative reporter, she wrote articles in some of the most widely read magazines that were shocking to the Arab press especially when written by a woman.  She combined courage with a captivating style that is simple and expressive.  Even before she wrote her first novel, she was known as a journalist and a short story writer.  However, what really put her in the spotlight was a successive combination of factors that included her undeniable talent, her original bourgeois status from a prominent Syrian family, the controversial topics she addressed as a female writer, and her liberal lifestyle and constant travels.  In addition, she devoted much time to the media through consecutive interviews (more than two interviews per month) in order to reach every reader throughout the Arab world.[xxxvii]

Al-Samman’s relationship with the media is not new.  From her early beginnings, she understood the critical importance of the press and was able to maximize its impact.  Ghada al-Samman depended primarily on the Lebanese press as a medium to launch her articles and books, not just in Lebanon, but throughout the Arab speaking world.  Beirut, being the most liberal of all Arab capitals, had a press that was the most independent, tolerant, mildly censored, and technologically advanced. In addition, the press in Beirut had a wide circulation and distribution across the Arab world. 

               Ilham Ghali has studied the relationship between al-Samman and the media and has shown that while the local press in the Gulf countries and in Syria rarely published interviews with al-Samman, nevertheless their readers had access through the Lebanese press to all such interviews.  According to Ghali, fifty percent of al-Samman’s interviews were primarily conducted and published in Lebanon in comparison to only six percent that were published in the author’s native country of Syria.[xxxviii]  Another important observation that Ghali makes is that the “war regions” (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt) accept and analyze the “war literature of Ghada al-Samman,” while the “oil regions” (the Gulf States) enjoyed reading this literature which is permeated with romance, sexuality, love, and explicit relationships between men and women.  Such topics attracted the Gulf reader who lived in a much more conservative society where such topics were still taboo.[xxxix]

                Al-Samman remains one of the very few authors, Arab or otherwise, who collected and published her own interviews, letters and reflections on various subjects in a series of fourteen volumes, and interestingly, entitled the series, The Incomplete Works, assigning individual titles to every book depending on its content.  The unusual aspect of some of these interviews and confessions is the fact that many of them lack the spontaneity that accompanies an ad hoc oral interview.  In many instances, al-Samman accepted written questions from journalists or critics, and took the time to answer them in a detailed and premeditated way, leading the reader to know what she really wanted to reveal.  This approach afforded her the freedom and flexibility to digress into subjects she wanted to expose and comment on, while simultaneously allowing her to avoid details that she preferred to keep unanswered.  On the whole, her answers, almost in the form of short essays, expose her driving tendency to be read, and also bespeak of a conscious, smart, and calculated attempt on her part to supply a significant amount of biographical information that could easily be utilized by a critic, historian, or academic researcher.  In essence, al-Samman, as a writer, has taken extreme care to draw her own image of herself while she is still alive, not wanting to leave anything for chance.  She does not want to be interpreted by critics posthumously.  She cares much about her image, her opinions, and her character and desires to be viewed through her own personal looking glass.  She wants to avoid being misrepresented, for she says, “I have discovered that most of my conversations with the press have been subject to omissions or changes necessitated by editorial cuts ... personal views or ...other reasons... even the questions were edited sometimes...”[xl]

               This method of premeditated responses to various questions on her personal life and on her social, political, and literary views should be categorized as selective self-revelation.  Most of the critics who wrote about her derived their biographical information from her self-revealed story and quoted her as the main source.[xli]  Consequently, an autobiographical interpretation of Beirut ‘75 is not complete without viewing the text in the broader context of The Incomplete Works

In The Incomplete Works, al-Samman reconstructs the story of her childhood and adulthood and presents it to the reader as she recalls it or wants it to be remembered. Although all the interviews contained in The Incomplete Works had previously been published in various journals, al-Samman argues that republishing them in a book dispelled her fear of losing them, especially after a shell had landed on her house in Beirut at the onset of the war in Lebanon and had almost burned her entire library.[xlii]  Another important feature of these interviews is that some of them did not even take place.  She classifies them under the subtitle, “Conversations That Did Not Happen,” and she cites as a prime example the published dialogue she never had with the prominent Palestinian author, the late Ghassan Kanafani:

 

He requested an oral interview.  I refused and insisted that it should be written and I asked for the interview to be delayed a few weeks as I was busy then with my novel - Falling to the Summit - the most famous Arabic novel which is yet to be published.  - So what did Ghassan do?  He went on and wrote the questions and wrote the answers and brought the dialogue to me saying:  I know your thoughts, and I know your style, and so, this is our dialogue...I read the dialogue, and I was surprised that he wrote the answers for me, and I approved its publication.[xliii]

 

An obvious, but very admirable, characteristic that underlies her published interviews is her warm, supportive and praising attitude towards her fellow authors, women and men alike. She always  finds something positive to say about them, constantly comes to their defense, and refuses to take credit for her success at their expense.[xliv]  This really highlights al-Samman as an honest human being and writer who is confident of her talent and who remained above petty attacks. As for the critics’ evaluations of her works, she writes:

 

The critics are divided in their views of my works...There are a lot of attacks, and there is a lot of contentment...and there is the I (in the middle) continuing my path without bitterness.  No matter how fierce the attacks, I will not feel bitter...when I think of some geniuses who died and no critic had paid any attention to their talent, I feel lucky because my readers and I have been contemporaries.  I feel like a lucky writer because I have found a reader even if he cursed me... when I remember that Mozart went to his grave alone and nobody walked in his funeral, and that his tomb in Vienna is unknown, I feel that the Arab Nation is not as ungrateful as some claim.[xlv]

 

               Beirut ‘75, written between October 9th and November 22, 1974,[xlvi] is Ghada al-Samman’s first attempt at writing a novel.[xlvii]   Its setting covers a period of less than four months and is a story of intrigue, suspense and controversy. As I read it for the first time, it aroused in me feelings of joy, anger, sympathy and frustration. It also awakened memories of happy, yet sad days when I was in Beirut in ‘75 and ‘76.  Many of the voices in this book are loud and clear save the voice of the main protagonist, Beirut, who casts her shadow over the whole climate of despair and who lends her name to the book and gives the characters a space to move, a reason to hope, and an opportunity to vent. Beirut, presented in this book, is a temptress of epic proportions, a city of dreams and temptations, an Eldorado, an Eden, a Purgatory, and ultimately, a Hades for those wretched souls who populate the novel.  As Samira Aghacy points out, for many women writers of this time, “the setting takes precedence over character and rises to the level of protagonist to become an active component of the action.”[xlviii]

               Anyone who knew Beirut in 1975 can relate to this book and can smell the sea and embrace the mood of the characters.  Beirut was the enchantress, the symbol of forbidden fruit.  Beirut was the city that welcomed and embraced all its visitors and newcomers despite their sins and shortcomings.  This unconditional warmth of hospitality, al-Samman comments, is one of the characteristics of either the saint or the whore. Such was Beirut, a mixture of both.[xlix] Ghada appreciates in Beirut its magnificent sense of democracy and freedom because she could live there free of many social and legal bonds that burden the citizens in the rest of the Arab countries. In spite of her many reservations on Lebanese society, she admits that Lebanon is the “island of liberty”[l] in the Arab world.

Above all, Beirut is, perhaps metaphorically the alter ego of the author herself. Like Ghada al-Samman, Beirut is the story of an exotically beautiful young Arab woman who dares to shed her veil, to rebel, be different, wear make up, go to college, converse in English and French, wear provocative clothes, smoke in public, drive a sports car, sit on the beach, share ideas in the company of Arab intellectuals at a cafe on Hamra street, read a foreign novel, recite poetry, travel to European capitals and read Homer, Dante and Sartre in their original languages.  However, neither al-Samman nor Beirut have forgotten their Arab roots and glorious heritage.  They have both memorized the Holy Qur’an and the Arabian Nights.

Those who did not know Beirut in the seventies will remain unable to grasp the subtle socio-political and cultural hints underlying the flow of events in this unusually daring novel written in 1974.  Al-Samman admits that it is indeed Lebanon’s location at the crossroads of civilization that makes it unique and susceptible to various influences and consequently qualifies it to play a special role as the oasis of freedom in the Middle East.  In spite of this, al-Samman goes on to conclude in 1976 that “the hope is great that what Beirut has gone through is only the period of setting the stage for adopting an Arab identity which is her true belonging, the only inevitable destiny for the Lebanese Arab homeland.”[li] 

It appears that al-Samman, like Beirut, has an identity crisis, torn between her Arabic heritage and her Western love of freedom and self-reliance.  Al-Samman is preoccupied with the dilemma of the Arab intellectual in reconciling the frustrating differences between a conservative, religious Arab background and the stream of Western intellectual, liberal, and secular influences invading the Arab world. On the subconscious level, al-Samman seems totally infatuated with Lebanon just as it is, while on the conscious level, she epitomizes the ultimate frustration and lack of understanding and sympathy displayed by many in sincerely coming to terms with Lebanon’s very existence and national, political and intellectual identity.

Al-Samman’s personal outlook on Lebanon is also colored to a great degree by her study of existential writers such as Camus, Sartre, Kafka, and Khalil Hawi.  Hanan Awwad confirms that al-Samman is “a strong believer in existentialism since, as is well known, this philosophical movement has spawned a variety of feminist movements in the West; not surprisingly, she has to a real extent been influenced by many of the writers who belong to this school.”[lii]  Writing about al-Samman’s  pre-1967 works, Awwad  concludes:

 

Al-Samman touches on love, death, cultural alienation, class consciousness, and even explores East-West cultural differences.  Reading her books and short stories of this period, one becomes vividly aware of the depth and intensity of al-Samman’s frustration, of her ineradicably pessimistic outlook on life, which must in part be a legacy from her existentialist mentors in Europe.[liii]

 

A sense of alienation, pessimism, and ultimate nihilism, which stems from al-Samman’s existential viewpoint, envelops the main characters in Beirut ‘75.  The protagonists (Yasmeena, Farah, Ta’aan, Abu’l-Malla, and Abu Mustafa) feel trapped, alone, and disconnected from each other and from society.  Each character’s personal struggle sheds light on some negative aspect of Lebanese society as seen by al-Samaan in 1974.  Each character is exploited in some way, either sexually, politically or economically.  Although these underlying ills of Lebanese society existed at the time, I submit that al-Samman shows a journalistic view of Beirut skewed by her own personal perception of reality rather than a complete and more accurate multidimensional view of the society at that time.  Al-Samman succeeds in provoking the reader, but erroneously omits certain facts, which results in a novel that becomes a sensationalistic piece of journalism.  In addition, al-Samman fails to successfully convey the depth of existential crisis that each of her characters endures, consequently resulting in characters that remain shallow and who do not convince the reader that their tragic demise is warranted. This position appears to be further supported by Awwad who claims that “al-Samman’s personal feelings and emotions interfere with her intellectual grasp of important Arab issues, thus causing her to propound generalizations of dubious value and create a set of fairly nondescript characters.”[liv]

The first chapter of the novel repeatedly foreshadows the characters’ impending doom.

According to al-Samman, her characters were doomed because they were trapped in a “pond of violence,”[lv] otherwise known as “Beirut.”  Instead of finding hope and redemption there, they each become entangled in the socio-political issues of Beirut in 1975.  From al-Samman’s political and existential view, Beirut is viewed as a “fallen city,” and consequently, not only its citizens but anyone who enters it is doomed to fail.  For al-Samman, Beirut is Dante’s hell, a place for lost souls with no hope of salvation.[lvi]

Throughout the novel, the characters seem pathetic in their limited grasp of reality and in their inability to alter their catastrophic destiny.  They seek a childlike and immediate fix to their problems.  They do not grow, mature or ripen with experience. Rather, they succumb to their unyielding desires and destructive instincts.  Their mad search for an immediate solution to their poverty, coupled with their uncontrollable passion for money and fame, prove to be a sure formula for disaster.  Rather than accept personal responsibility for their actions, they choose instead to  blame Beirut.

It is important to point out, as Samira Aghacy does, that in the works of many Lebanese women authors writing around the same period, the protagonists who journeyed to Beirut experienced the city as a liberating force from their  “…traditional community that is closely aligned with a rural mentality.”  They see “the city and the village in ontological opposition between repression and freedom, backwardness and progress, and past and present.” Unlike Yasmeena and Farah, who become totally alienated, depressed and mentally disturbed, those protagonists saw the “nurturing city as a symbol of well-being, independence, and freedom from shackles.”[lvii]  However, al-Samman’s two main characters fail to immerse themselves in the bounty of opportunities that Beirut had to offer.  Although Beirut afforded them the appropriate escape from the tyranny of the past symbolized by their parents, stifling jobs and closed-minded communities, nevertheless they were incapable of standing on their own in order to realize their potential. Instead of listening to their inner voice, they remained totally dependent on outside forces to secure the futures that they had romantically envisioned.  Because they were motivated by the wrong reason, mainly personal “glory,” and were driven by selfish dreams of wealth and fame, they ignored the call of their conscience to return to their villages or to get a job and make it on their own.  They did not want to simply survive; they wanted to quickly become rich and famous. Yasmeena sought deliverance through Nimr, who is himself a slave to tradition, and Farah sold his soul to the devil, replacing his dominating father image with that of Nishan in total submission and “obedience.”  Instead of rejecting the authoritative figures they had left behind, both Yasmeena and Farah simply replace them with a more corrupt and tyrannical symbol, thus failing to “define for themselves a new identity” and become part of a larger cause or community.  Although in her published interviews, al-Samman clearly argues that sexual freedom is inseparable from economic, social and political freedom, her characters, Yasmeena and Farah, do not strive to obtain the rest of their rights in order to become really free. Their struggle for identity and independence should have been waged on many fronts instead of being confined primarily to “the theme of sexuality, of the privilege of orgasm and self gratification.”  Based on her personal and existential reading of Beirut’s climate at the time, al-Samman presents us with “a world view that fits [her] preferred self-interpretation.”  This results in characters who actively choose to use their bodies as a means of asserting their freedom instead of opting “for an effective public role and demand social and political rights.”  In the vast city, they actually capitalize on the liberating element of “anonymity” as an avenue for “unrestricted wandering, sexual freedom, and the pursuit of sensual gratification.”  Both Yasmeena and Farah want to be free and equal with the Beiruties.  What they fail to consider is that through “work” and self- reliance rather than “sex,” they could have achieved “personal growth and social development... [in this] existential city.”[lviii]

On a higher allegorical level, Yasmeena’s obsession with sexuality, with Nimr’s body and the discovery of her own appetite for sex and the pleasures of intercourse makes us wonder whether the author meant her to be a prototype of the deprived Arab woman throughout the ages.  Suddenly, this new phoenix-like image, this modern Sheherazade, Yasmeena, comes forward to release this tension and serve as a spokeswoman for all her Arab sisters.  Yasmeena declares:

 

I love it [sex].  I became addicted to it.  I longed for it. For twenty-seven years... I was forbidden to enjoy sex ...in my blood dwells the desires of all Arab women for the last thousand years...Away from Nimr... I run the risk of sliding deeper into insanity... My hunger for his body is more than a thousand years old.[lix]

 

Compare this with al-Samman’s response to the question, “Who is Ghada al-Samman?”  Al-Samman says:  “I am an Arab woman from the desert.  I am two thousand years old.  They have attempted to bury me alive in the desert, but failed.  They have killed me many times, and I would always rise from my ashes to fly... And write.”[lx]  Although al-Samman denies that Yasmeena in some ways represents her, there are striking similarities between the two.  Both Yasmeena and al-Samman are viewed as “fallen women.”  Yasmeena becomes an outcast as a result of exercising her sexual freedom.  Al-Samman becomes exiled for promoting a sexual revolution.  Both are Arab women who become victims of a double-standard tradition that denies women their sexual freedom, while granting men theirs.  Yasmeena’s and al-Samaan’s sexual liberation comes at a very high price.

               In addition, in “Chapter One” of Beirut ‘75, Yasmeena’s taxi ride into Beirut is almost identical to al-Samman’s recollection of her own first journey into Beirut in 1964.  Al-Samman writes about herself:

 

I ride my car and depart from my quiet nest…in Damascus, to Beirut, in order to chase my dream of freedom... Like a person goes towards his destiny leaving everything behind him and without noticing that he has just taken a decisive decision in his life...I carried my eternal dream of freedom...and I spread my secret wings that long to soar across the coastal horizon... Everything that is “I” in me was drawn like a compass... towards Beirut, the freedom, Beirut, the dream... I shiver with love towards the unknown...as if it were yesterday...[lxi]

 

The overlapping of autobiography and fiction continues as the story of Yasmeena and Farah unfolds and their feelings towards both Damascus and Beirut are revealed from the moment they ride the taxi until they arrive in Beirut, exposing further similarities with the author's sentiments.  It is not coincidental that both the author and her characters arrive in Beirut on September 14th, the eve of the Feast of the Cross.  The manner of description through which the author blends fiction and fact is unmistakable if one compares the opening chapter of Beirut ‘75 and al-Samman’s details in an interview given on July 28,1983 about her arrival to Beirut.[lxii]   As she tells us about her feelings while she drives her car through the winding roads from Damascus to Beirut, we find it difficult to distinguish her voice from that of Yasmeena’s and Farah’s.  She tells about her fear and panic as she hears the echoes of explosions of fireworks celebrating the Feast of the Cross across the hills of the Lebanese villages and sees the bonfires blazing on the hills and mountain tops.  She is truly afraid as she is reminded of the consecutive series of military coups d’etat that she endured in Syria and wondered in horror, “Does the curse of violence follow me wherever I go?  Did the dream of freedom end even before it began, crushed like an ear of grain under the boots of a soldier?”[lxiii]  She talks about how she had a flat tire that almost cost her her life on those winding, narrow and high mountainous roads leading to Beirut.  Interestingly, the taxi that brought Yasmeena and Farah to Beirut also had a flat tire.

There is actually more of al-Samman in Yasmeena’s character than al-Samman is willing to admit. For both Yasmeena and al-Samman, Beirut was their destiny where they were determined to be free, independent, famous and successful.  Beirut was the genie at the beach, the land of endless opportunities that they both loved and yearned for.  Al-Samman goes on to boast that even before Beirut had become a love lyric on every lover’s lips and a topic of poetry, songs and international news,  “Beirut was the title of my earliest books and even later ones... we had fallen in love with each other.”[lxiv]  Furthermore, both Yasmeena and al-Samman had been high school teachers in Syria, yet they both chose to abandon that profession since they found it stifling and unsuitable to their nature.  Both were convinced that Beirut would give them the “opportunity to publish [their] poems in her newspapers.”[lxv]  Both were obsessed with the image of flying.  Yasmeena says, “My heart feels like a bird hungry to fly.”[lxvi]  Both loved music and were in a perpetual state of love.  For Yasmeena says, “Music had always evoked within her a hidden store of mysterious emotions.  She imagined herself to be a lover, not in love with anyone in particular, but in a perpetual state of amourous bliss, with a constant readiness to love, to suffer torment.”[lxvii]  Both Yasmeena and al-Samman desired a life of luxury and had experienced unfulfilled sexual relationships in their homeland of Syria.[lxviii] They both had a sense of adventure and decided to intentionally never look back.  Al-Samman threw the flat tire away in a gesture to forget everything about her past.  Yasmeena, likewise, vows she will not look back at Damascus anymore, saying, “Adieu, Damascus, adieu!”[lxix]

In spite of this, it is Mustafa, the fisherman’s son, who al-Samman admits represents her the most.[lxx]  According to the author, only Mustafa was able to achieve victory over his destiny by not searching for an individual solution and by not joining the group that was the reason for his misery.  Instead, he committed to a cause, she says, to a collective effort in pursuit of justice, bread and happiness.[lxxi]  Mustafa remains the only character with a vision and hope for salvation.  He is able through his personal insight and intellect to bridge the vast gap between a Romantic quest and an existential destiny.  He seems to have emerged with an imaginative power that allows him to alter his fate and that of his fellowmen to harvest a better future. However, it is rather ironic that Mustafa did not consider joining his “comrades” until after that fateful night of extreme sexual frustration.  We are left wondering about the genuine intentions and ambitions of this “intellectual” character/hero who overnight is transformed into a rebel and armed “with the will for struggle, which is alone capable of changing the world.”[lxxii]   Nevertheless, Mustafa’s role should not be underestimated.  Since Mustafa joined the fishermen, he became the intellectual force behind their rebellion.  He gave them a voice and a written list of demands.  The written word is powerful, far-reaching and poses a permanent threat to the interests of “the monopoly holders.”  As a spokesman for the fishermen, the poor, and the underprivileged at large, Mustafa, like al-Samman herself, exposed their cause and elevated their demands from mere complaints to legitimacy.  He added a whole new dimension to their struggle by introducing new “dangerous words like dignity, rights, and justice,” powerful words that created a nightmare of “worries…problems…headache” to Nimr who is clearly threatened by “that boy” Mustafa.[lxxiii]  It becomes much harder to silence the fishermen.  This irritated Nimr a great deal because it challenged his authority and could cause him to lose his “reputation, position, and ultimately, his fortune.”  Obviously, Mustafa appears willing to carry the conflict to the next step, an armed struggle, which makes him a perfect mouthpiece for the author who was also calling for nothing short of an “armed revolution.”[lxxiv]

The other characters in the novel also represent some aspect of al-Samman’s socio-political point of view.  These characters seem to be journalistic portraits of individuals that al-Samman could have met when she had the opportunity to personally experience the lives of the lower social classes in Lebanon.  Clearly, al-Samman wants us to sympathize with the plight of Abu Mustafa and Abu’l-Malla who have no hope of escaping a life of poverty due to their perceived victimization by an elite class of individuals.  Even Ta’aan is a victim of a feudal tribal society that condemns him initially for no fault of his own.  Those who partake in some of the riches that Beirut has to offer such as Yasmeena and Farah all end tragically.  Yet, the true tragedy of the novel is that these characters were all doomed from the outset.  They all seem to adopt al-Samman’s existential and fatalistic point of view.  Al-Samman confirms this when she says that “During the writing of this novel, its characters were simply leading themselves to their tragic deaths.  I was constantly trying to stop them from doing this, but I was unable to.”[lxxv]  

These are “frustrated” characters “who attempt to escape the boredom of a too-sheltered existence by launching into experiences on the fringe of social acceptability... who have chosen madness, sexual deviation, or conscious martyrdom in order to escape the stifling embrace of tradition...”[lxxvi]  Al-Samman made her characters partners in her obsession with dreams and nightmares.  They all suffer from “sudden leaps back and forth between ‘reality’ and ‘dream’”[lxxvii] to the extent that they lose track of reality and totally surrender to an existential nightmarish condition that proves fatal for Yasmeena, Abu’l Mallah and Abu Mustafa, and leads Farah and Ta’aan to insanity.  It is also interesting to note that the sudden leaps between reality and dreams is reminiscent of someone who could be under the influence of LSD, a drug that al-Samman experimented with earlier. Nevertheless, the reader is still left with a sense of bewilderment at such an astonishing and violent end to an otherwise ordinary set of characters. Did they really merit such a catastrophic conclusion of events?  Several reviews have been very critical of such a sensational conclusion, and some critics, as well as many readers, have been shocked and dismayed.[lxxviii]

It seems that the tragic flaw of these characters is that they remain trapped between two worlds.  They are primarily Romantic beings who set out on an existential quest that can only lead to disaster.  From the taxi that carried them to Beirut, they embark on a quixotic journey, and each carries within himself his own seeds of distruction.  They share the ride and the sense of calamity, but - with the exception of Mustafa - they remain alone and each a “stranger” to his fellow man and to humanity at large. While they are infused with the existential elements of despair, alienation and failure, they all lack two basic ingredients of Romanticism:  hope and imagination.  Hope can negate despair and alienation, while imagination can help turn failure into success.  The Romantic imagination can redeem “fallen nature,” presented here as Beirut, which cannot help itself.  Imagination can redeem man, who can do it on his own, but who needs the impetus of an example.[lxxix]  None of these characters is equipped to serve as an example or redeemer.  Hence, the aridity of their vision and their suicidal fate.  Even Mustafa’s daring attempt to change the course of his destiny, and consequently, the destiny of others, remains hopeful yet less than convincing.

Amid all this, Beirut is silent and unable to defend itself against numerous accusations, some true and some false.  Beirut is portrayed as a cruel, heartless, inhospitable and damp place, stripped of all of its positive qualities.  The rain that Ghada al-Samman hates permeates almost every chapter of the book.  We never hear in the novel that Beirut is the cultural capital of the Middle East and its intellectual and literary center.[lxxx]  In this novel, Beirut’s psychological and spiritual climate instead resembles the surrealistic and existential climate that permeates Camus’ The Stranger. The Beiruties remain voiceless, faceless, weak, marginal, and are described as being mostly corrupt and unpatriotic with anti-Arab sentiments.  They are even ridiculed for conversing in French, which is ironically, the first language that the author herself learned even before learning Arabic.[lxxxi] It is clear that al-Samman wanted to depict them as a distorted version of Eliot’s “Hollow Men” who inhabit a “Waste Land,” and not an elegant and hospitable city like Beirut.  The manner of representation of the main characters to symbolize a whole society, and through it, a whole country, remains lacking. 

               Al-Samman’s personal political point of view becomes evident in the scenes of the Israeli air raids over Beirut.  Yasmeena and Farah become troubled and reminisce about such times when they were visited by these evils and witnessed destruction and fear.  On the other hand, Nimr and the inhabitants of Hamra go about their business as if nothing had happened.  According to al-Samman, only an animal, the monkey, feels the shame of the enemy airplanes that had been allowed to fly over an Arab capital. The author makes it clear that the Beiruties had grown accustomed to such “visits,” and she implicitly criticizes them for doing nothing.  The other scene in the novel with similar political overtones is that of the parliamentarian with one of his constituents.  The implication of these scenes is that some Lebanese were indifferent to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  This appears to be a superficial journalistic snapshot of the political reality.  While at face value, these Lebanese may have seemed indifferent, what al-Samman fails to point out is that perhaps the reality was that the Lebanese by themselves were powerless militarily to do anything.  Therefore, perceived indifference could actually have been resigned acceptance of the futility of any action. 

                In Beirut ‘75, Al-Samman leads one to believe that the civil war in Lebanon was simply the result of problems exclusively within the society when in reality its root causes were much more complex.  No one can deny the underlying class struggle in Lebanon prior to 1975, but one must also remind all the critics who wrote about Beirut ‘75  and claimed it a “prophecy”[lxxxii] that heralded the Lebanese civil war and supposedly addressed all the evils and the causes of that bloody war, that this was after all a  “regional war” having the root of its causes in the Arab-Israeli struggle and the massive and overwhelming military presence of the PLO in Lebanon that certainly  tipped the balance of power and helped create a hostile environment not conducive to a peaceful coexistence.[lxxxiii]  Consequently, the novel again falls victim to being a one-sided sensational view of the political reality at the time.  Years later, al-Samman admitted that “the Lebanese war, has no doubt, affected every artist and writer, Lebanese and Arab...since the Lebanese war has Arab roots and causes, it no doubt, has touched  the conscience of every creative Arab mind...our Lebanese war is an Arab war that belongs to us all.”[lxxxiv]  

               Ghada al-Samman’s continuous involvement in writing about the war in Lebanon and scrutinizing its causes and effects, in analyzing it and making judgments about the Lebanese society also confirms Ilham Shoukry’s observation that there is no Arab literature in general, that focused primarily on the Lebanese war, hence, “al-Samman, a Syrian writer, appears absolutely exceptional regarding this point.”[lxxxv]  

Although on more than one occasion, al-Samman clearly states that she does not belong to a particular political party, yet it is obvious in The Incomplete Works that she supports Arab nationalism and wants Lebanon, for example, to be part of a greater Arab nation from the gulf to the ocean.  Al-Samman says:

 

We do not wish for Beirut to reclaim its previous position.  We reject that everything returns to the way it was. We have offered tens of thousands of victims so that Beirut does not regain its previous status, but instead for her to have a future status with new foundations... We want to make out of Beirut a real center for Arab enlightenment... In the creative sense not only in the commercial sense ...We aim to play an Arabic role that goes beyond the role of serving as an excellent hotel... Our ambition is to create a new vision...”[lxxxvi]  

 

It becomes evident that al-Samman’s “political stance... is one that calls for the unity of the Arab world through the awakening of a pan-Arab nationalism. She believes that the cause of Lebanese unity is inseparable from the creation of a unified Arab world.”[lxxxvii]  This passionate political view has narrowed the author’s vision of the underlying causes of the Lebanese war, and consequently, undermined Lebanon’s unique role in the Arab world. Lebanon is, above all, an Arab country “which has been especially imbued with the spirit of modernity”[lxxxviii] and its contributions to the Arab cause and the advancement of the Arabic language, literature and thought are pioneering and unparalleled.  Although she repeatedly praises the climate of freedom in Lebanon compared to every other Arab country, yet she seems to deliberately deny the cause of this very free air that “she breathes” and goes on to reject Lebanon’s western complexion:

 

... I am also against Westernizing Lebanon, against partitioning it, and against the continuity of its decayed... political system, its unjust social class system, against the authority of the minority, whose interest is associated with imperialism, over the welfare of the majority of the laboring people...  And against covering the just struggle of the Lebanese masses... with the masks of religious sectarianism and against the isolationist and suspect calls that confirm that Lebanon descends from a Phoenician mother and an American sailor from the sixth Fleet who passed on the shores of Byblos.[lxxxix]

 

Through her political stance, Ghada al-Samaan’s identity crisis surfaces.  She is clearly conflicted, yet she serves as an example of a Romantic character who has found a way to deal with her own personal “nightmare” and existential quest.  Rather than live a life of repression, she instead remains “true to [her] ideals”[xc] by choosing to live flamboyantly and by clearly expressing her point of view at every opportunity even to the extent of being viewed as “narcissistic.”[xci]  Al-Samman is an active participant in Beirut ‘75.  She “is not a narrator, but rather the novel itself.  The whole world is her place, and the sixties and the seventies… are her times.”[xcii] 

 

 

 

References:


[i] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, Nancy Roberts, Translator. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1995, p. 11.

[ii] Ghada Samman, Beirut ’75, p. 54.

[iii] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 55.

[iv] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 95.

[v] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), Beirut: Dar Al Tali’ah Lil Tiba’a wa’l Nashr, First Edition, 1977, pp. 20-21.

[vi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12 : Al-Qabeela Tastajwib Al-Qateela  (The Incomplete Works, Vol. 12 : The Tribe Interrogates the Killed Woman).  Beirut: Manshuraat Ghada Al-Samman, First Edition, 1981. pp. 138, 163.  Translation is my own.

[vii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13: Al-Bahr Uhakim Samaka ( The Incomplete Works, Vol.13: The Sea Tries A Fish ),  Beirut: Manshuraat Ghada Al-Samman, First Edition, 1986, p. 137.  Translation is my own.

See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, pp. 121-22, 210-11.

[viii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, pp. 6, 64.

[ix] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, pp. 109-10.

[x] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, p. 334.

[xi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, p. 26. 

[xii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 89.

[xiii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp. 23, 30-31.

[xiv] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings), p. 27.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, p. 35.

[xv] Ghada Samman, Beirut Nightmares, Nancy Roberts, Translator. London: Quartet Books, 1997, p. i.  See also Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p. 27.

[xvi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 57.

[xvii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, p. 110.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp. 57, 99, 127.

[xviii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp. 203-04, 256.

[xix] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, pp. 34-36.

[xx] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p. 29.

[xxi] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p. 30.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 185.

[xxii] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), pp. 29-31.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 152.

[xxiii] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p. 9.  See also Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb (Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War. Beirut: Dar Al Tali’ah Lil Tiba’a wa’l Nashr, First Edition, 1986, p. 6.

[xxiv] Ghada Samman, Beirut Nightmares, p. ii.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp. 102-03.

[xxv] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p. 43.

[xxvi] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), pp. 32-33.

[xxvii] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p. 33.

[xxviii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, p. 54.

[xxix] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p.  41.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 58.

[xxx] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975 ), Quebec:  Sherbrooke, 1983, p. 39.

[xxxi] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p.  42.

[xxxii] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975 ), p. 118.  See also Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p.  42.

[xxxiii] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), pp.  43- 44.

[xxxiv] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p.  44.

[xxxv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp.  45-46, 216.

[xxxvi] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), p.  33.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp. 54, 114.

[xxxvii] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb (Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War), pp. 26-27, 33.  Translation is my own.

[xxxviii] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb (Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War), p. 37.

[xxxix] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb ( Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War), p. 56.

[xl] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 8.

[xli] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah Al-Samman bila Ajnihah ( Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), pp. 22 – 44.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 33.

[xlii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 93.

[xliii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 6.

[xliv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, pp. 208-09.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, p. 21.

[xlv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 235.

[xlvi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 234.  See also Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 117.

[xlvii] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb ( Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War), p. 7.

[xlviii] Samira Aghacy, “Lebanese Women’s Fiction: Urban Identity And The Tyranny of  the Past,”  International Journal Of  Middle East Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Vol. 33, No. 4, November 2001. p. 506.

[xlix] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.12, p. 31.

[l] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol 12, p. 32.

[li] Ghada Al-Samman, Al-A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol.13, p. 116.

[lii] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975 ),  p. 38.

[liii] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975 ).  p. 53.

[liv] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975), p. 91.

[lv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, pp. 112-113.

[lvi] “All ye who enter here, abandon all hope!” Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 11. 

[lvii] Samira Aghacy,  “Lebanese Women’s Fiction : Urban Identity And The Tyranny of  the Past,” pp. 503, 506-07.

[lviii] Samira Aghacy,  “Lebanese Women’s Fiction : Urban Identity And The Tyranny of  the Past,” pp. 503, 506-07.

[lix] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman ( 1961 - 1975 ), pp. 100-01. 

[lx] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, p. 320.  Because of her “well balanced” social views, especially in her calling for women’s rights without launching “a war against men” al-Samman has been extremely successful in promoting the cause of women across the Arab world.  Her eloquent style, pioneering ideas and clear position that both men and women have been subjected to an unjust tradition, has earned her the respect of Arab readers, critics and writers alike.  She enjoys a great following and is viewed as a leader of a movement that has already graduated many new writers.  See for example the article about the new book, A Black Cup, by the Algerian poetess, Naseera Muhammadi, in www.assafir.com/iso/today/culture/16.html, January 22, 2003.

[lxi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, pp. 50-51.

[lxii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, pp. 50-52.

[lxiii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, p. 51.

[lxiv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, p. 52.

[lxv] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 7.

[lxvi] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 7.

[lxvii] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 6.

[lxviii] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 12.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, p. 89 and Ghali Shukri, pp.27-30.

[lxix] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 4.

[lxx] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, p. 322.

[lxxi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, p. 113.

[lxxii] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, pp. 113-14.

[lxxiii] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. 80.

[lxxiv] Shakir al-Nabulsy, Fad  thakirat imra’at, A Study in the Literature of Ghada al-Samman, al-Mu’assasa al-Arabiya lildirasat wa’lnashr, Beirut, First Edition, 1990, pp. 88-89.

[lxxv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, pp. 112-113.

[lxxvi] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975).  p. 31.

[lxxvii] Ghada Samman, Beirut ‘75, p. vii.  The sudden leap between reality and dreams could be due to the effects of LSD on the author’s part.  Awwad pointed out that al-Samman did experiment with LSD.

[lxxviii]  Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, pp. 112-13.

[lxxix] George Nicolas El-Hage, William Blake & Kahlil Gibran:  Poets of Prophetic Vision.  Louaize:  Notre Dame University Press, 2002, p. 91.

[lxxx] This is in complete contrast to the way al-Samman’s relative, the famous Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani, viewed Beirut.  See Nizar Qabbani, The Complete Works, Volume 2.  Beirut:  Manshurrat Nizar Qabbani, First Edition, 1978, pp. 21-23, 38, 293-379, 719-797.   See also Nizar Qabbani:  Sha’ir Likul al-Ajyaal (A Poet for All Generations).  Edited by Muhamad Yousuf Najm.  Kuwait:  Dar Su’ad al_Sabah Lil-Nashr Wa’l-Tawzi, Volume I, First Edition, 1998, pp. 360-64.  See also Nizar Kabbani:  Arabian Love Poems.  Edited and translated by Bassam Frangieh and Clementina Brown.  Colorado Springs:  Three Continents Press, 1993, pp. xiii-xxxiv.

[lxxxi] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings). p. 29.

[lxxxii] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb (Ghada Al-Samman: Love and War), p. 100.  See also Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman (1961 - 1975 ), p. 30.  See also Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, pp. 47, 224.  See also Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), pp. 111, 121.

[lxxxiii] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb ( Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War). p. 19.  See also al-Nabulsy, pp. 199-202.

[lxxxiv] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 13, p. 82.

[lxxxv] Ilham Ghali, Ghada Al-Samman: al-Hubb wa’l-Harb (Ghada Al-Samman: Love And War), pp. 17-18.  

[lxxxvi] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, p. 215.

[lxxxvii] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman ( 1961 - 1975 ), p. 116.

[lxxxviii] Hanan Ahmad Awwad, Arab Causes in the Fiction of Ghadah Al-Samman ( 1961 - 1975), p. 19.

[lxxxix] Ghada Al-Samman, Al- A’maal Ghayr Al-Kamila, Vol. 12, pp. 221-22.

[xc] Ghali Shukri, Ghadah  Al-Samman bila Ajnihah (Ghada Al-Samman without Wings ), pp. 32-33.

[xci] Shakir al-Nabulsy, Fad  thakirat imra’at, A Study in the Literature of Ghada al-Samman, pp. 233-242.

[xcii] Shakir al-Nabulsy, Fad  thakirat imra’at, A Study in the Literature of Ghada al-Samman, p. 195.

 

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