Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Zeina Abariched

Title: I Remember Beirut
Writer and Artist: Zeina Abirached
via Goodreads
Abirached was born in war-torn Lebanon in 1981.  I Remember Beirut is her graphic novel childhood memoir, originally published in French in 2008.  The English translation came out in 2014.  We are spared the more brutal details of the Lebanese Civil War.  Instead, we see the daily life of a family living in the shadows of that conflict.  She shares such memories as her mother's bullet-riddled car and her neighborhood, considered so sketchy that school buses wouldn't go there. 

Both the art and the narrative themes are highly reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.  Unfortunately, Abirached does not have quite the same knack for storytelling.  The book is short: 95 pages.  That's not such a sin in itself but I didn't feel I had much time to fall in love with either the characters or the setting.  Also, too many of her sentences begin with "I remember..."  While there is poetic potential in such repetition, the rest of the text does not deliver on such lyrical promise.  I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Lebanon, particularly during such a volatile time period.  But I would have preferred something more substantive.

In short, it's a good book.  But Satrapi's work is better.


  1. My son gifted me with Persepolis, and it was stunning. What a way to present horror.

  2. I won't go out looking for it, then.

  3. Maybe I'll check out Persepolis. In the late 80s, when I was in grad school, I had a classmate from Lebanon and he had stories to tell

    1. I should have clarified in the post: Persepolis is about Iran rather than Lebanon. Very different countries, I realize, but the presentation style of the books is undeniably similar. But indeed, you should check out Persepolis before you take a look at this one.