Bullet Paper Rock: A Memoir of Words and Wars

Abbas El-Zein

Bullet Paper Rock: A Memoir of Words and Wars
Upswell Publishing
3 April 2024

Bullet Paper Rock: A Memoir of Words and Wars

Abbas El-Zein

In Abbas El-Zein's new memoir, conflicts abound - either tragic or amusing, sometimes both - between teachers and students, left- and right-wing factions, civilians and militiamen and, not least, French and Arabic, two languages vying for primacy in the post-colonial worlds of Beirut and the Levant, with English coming fast from behind.

By the time he graduated from high school, El-Zein had nearly drowned in the Mediterranean, survived the breakout of civil war and lived through the violent death of two close family members. He witnessed Syrian and Israeli soldiers invade his country and, from his bedroom balcony, saw the mushroom cloud of the explosion that killed hundreds of American and French marines. But while war and tragedy struck every now and then, everyday life continued unabated, rich with humour, serendipity and love of many kinds.

Bullet Paper Rock is a story of survival, and a meditation on desire and loss, language and violence. It is at once a requiem for a Levantine past gone sour - from the innocent 1970s, through September 11 and its aftermath, to the cataclysms of the Arab Spring - and a tribute to women of his family - 'weavers whose fabric of choice is hope, they were hard at work, at night as in daytime, carving out viable lives, ones in which they loved and were loved aplenty'.

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