This coming-of-age story ( pages) was published in August of 2020 by Influx Press. The book takes you to post-civil-war Beirut. David read Between Beirut and the Moon and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.
Meet Adam, the young narrator of this coming-of-age story set in post-civil-war Beirut. He’s got big dreams of becoming an astronaut, but there’s no way to get from Beirut to the moon.
This episodic novel skips through time, following the ups and downs of Adam’s youth and introducing Lebanese culture along the way. The story begins with his home life, centered around his father — an idealistic journalist surrounded by books — and his mother, who smokes too much and worries about her kids: Adam and his sister, pony-tailed and sassy. Also worth noting: Adam’s father is Muslim; his mother is Christian.
Author A. Naji Bakhti explores the social impact of these religious differences on the street and in the playground. And a very clear picture emerges of home life and the education system. The author even introduces some Arabic: ‘Mother and father’ is a colloquial term used in Lebanon to express the idea of something whole or complete. For instance, the weight of the explosion knocked the man, mother, and father right out of the window, as men in Beirut occasionally are; or the building collapsed, mother and father, to the ground, as buildings in Beirut occasionally do.’
The subject matter of this novel can be pretty intense; everyday events are far different in Beirut than in, say, Columbus, Ohio. The writing makes up for it with dark humor and charm, and by populating this story with characters who are people you want to know, even during the hard times.
One memorable scene perfectly captures the absurd humor and abject fear that jostle for prominence on seemingly ‘normal’ days. Beirut is being bombed, and Adam’s family takes shelter in the bathroom to wait for it to stop. They’ve been there for hours — mother, father, sister, and Adam — surrounded by the smell of toilet paper and cleaning supplies and, eventually, the smell of their bodies and tension, trapped in this small space. They’ve long since stopped whatever they were doing and don’t know when they’ll return to whatever it was. So they wait, cycling between thinking they could soon die a horrible death and enduring a particular kind of boredom. And suddenly, Adam — 13-year-old Adam — realizes he has to pee.
This novel is a moving, often humorous, always compelling look at modern Beirut told by a writer who deftly juggles the light and the dark.
Many years later, long after I’d left Lebanon to pursue a higher education in London, my father would write a heartfelt article in An-Nahar newspaper. It would be his final article before he retired.
‘I curse the country,’ he would write, ‘I curse the country that bid our children farewell with a smile across its face and told them to never return. I curse the country that presented our children with two alternatives: death or immigration and instructed them to pick between the two. I curse the country that forced its parents to send their children to outer space — or worse Europe — and wave silently from afar. I curse the country that gave our children water but no future, soil but no belief, light but no hope. I curse the country that stripped our children of their parents, and us of them. I curse the country that made fools of us all and led us to believe that we would grow old watching our sons and daughters rise to greater heights amongst their fellow countrymen. I curse the country that robbed me of my afternoon Arak with my son. I curse the country that deprived me of the sight of his wispy beard slowly maturing into one which resembles my own. I curse the country that resigned my wife and I to that comfortable couch in the living room, staring past broken shards of glass into the empty void that is tomorrow. I curse the country, mother and father.’
— A. Naji Bakhti
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