Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lebanon : Worlds against Forgetfulness

The works of the Lebanese artists are more necessary than never when the specter of the civil war comes closer and closer. And it is the reason why they should not be gagged.

It could have been the case in August 2007 with “How Nancy wished it was just an April fool joke”, Rabih Mroueh’s last work. The play, which was said to fuel confessional divisions, has not been banned, thanks to the intervention of Lebanon minister of Culture, Mr Tarek Mitri (whose help was useful later against the ban of Persepolis, a French cartoon about the life of a young Iranian girl).

Under changing posters inspired by Zina Maasri’s work on the graphic use of such posters by political parties during the civil war, four “witnesses” tell the story of Lebanon, from the very beginnings during the mid 70’s, to the end of the play which ends, not in the beginning of the 90’s with the Taef agreements but with the last (at that time) events of the 25 January 2007, when fights in Beirut were close to send the country toward a new war. Just like now…

One could read Mroueh’s title as a way to wish, with the Nancy mentioned in the title, that nothing never happened and that all those events were just a “joke”. Nothing serious happened.

But it is just the contrary: with many other Lebanese writers and artists, Mroueh reminds us that - to put it in Mahmud Darwish’s words - Memory is necessary for forgetfulness (more or less the title of Darwish’s famous book about the siege of Beirut in 1982).

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