Dominique Eddé at the NYRB:
Beirut—Lebanon is both the center of the world and a dead end. The broken little village of a planet that is sick. Chaotic, polluted, and corrupt beyond belief, this is a country where beauty and human warmth constantly find ways to break through. It is impossible to name that feeling of being assaulted and charmed at the same time. You are in the city center, you stroll down a sidewalk eighteen inches wide, assailed from all sides by the confusion of buildings and traffic, torn between the appeal of the sea and the stench of garbage, and suddenly your gaze is soothed by the play of light on a stone wall, by bougainvilleas cascading from an ancient balcony, by the balcony itself.
You continue on your way, head down. Refugee children’s eyes beg you for something to eat, your impatience gives way to sadness and guilt. You hurry into a shop to buy some reels of yarn, and it’s the beginning of a journey.