From the town nestled in the peaks of Lebanon, to the recent surge in Hong Kong streets, to the crystal waters of the Occitanie coast, our three literary destinations of the week bring forth an array of Lebanese love stories, reimaginings of home, and the rich culture of Mediterranean poetry. In the words of the great Sufi poet Yunus Emre, “If I told you about a land of love, friend, would you follow me and come?”
Ruba Abughaida, Editor-at-Large, reporting for Lebanon
The mountain town of Bsharri in Lebanon should see an increase in tourism following the Lebanese debut of a musical adapted from Gibran Khalil Gibran’s Broken Wings, published in 1912. Born in Bsharri in 1883, Gibran’s book The Prophet, published in the United States in 1923, is still one of the best-selling books of all time after ninety-six years and 189 consecutive print runs. Showing at Beit El Din Palace, a nineteenth century palace which hosts the annual Beiteddine festival, the musical tells of a tragic love story which takes place during the turn of the century in Beirut.
Closer to sea level, an evening of poetry in Beirut celebrated Lebanese poet Hasan Abdulla. Born in Southern Lebanon, Abdulla was inspired by its natural beauty, and infused his poetry with observations of nature. His work, spanning over forty years, has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and Russian.
Between the pages of beloved books some sunlight gathers, as writers and readers from the various corners of our world gather to greet, honour, and celebrate one another. Crowds gather in search for literature in Rio de Janeiro, a Guatemalan favourite is shortlisted for a prestigious Neustadt International Award, and genre fiction takes the spotlight in Hong Kong. Travel with us between cobblestone and concrete, as our editors bring you the close-up view on global literary news.
Daniel Persia, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Brazil
One can hardly say it’s been winter here in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with the sun shining over the 17th edition of FLIP, the International Literary Festival of Paraty, from July 10 to 14. The festival—one of the world’s largest, and certainly Brazil’s most anxiously awaited—brought thousands of readers and writers to the cobblestone streets of Paraty in celebration of world literature. The main programming welcomed internationally acclaimed writers Grada Kilomba (Portugal, author of Plantation Memories: Episodes of Everyday Racism), Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Nigeria, author of Stay with Me), and Kalaf Epalanga (Angola, author of Também os brancos sabem dançar), among others, with events in various languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, and Libras (Brazilian Sign Language). But the magic of this year’s FLIP certainly wasn’t confined to the mainstage: the “houses” of Paraty’s historic center were transformed into venues for book readings, signings, and endless conversation; a parallel “Flipinha” brought the literary festival alive for children of all ages; and the first-ever FLIP international poetry slam packed the main plaza for an unforgettable night, featuring poets from Cabo Verde, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, the US, and the UK. Anyone looking for a recap of the main events can head to FLIP’s YouTube page to check out the action!
The smell was an acrid burning, very unlike the cool sea breeze that usually wafts off the harbor and drifts down Connaught Road in Central, Hong Kong. In Admiralty, I knew, there were students lined around the Tamar government buildings. Earlier I had seen the protestors shouting and shoving past barricades before the pepper spray began. It was hard to believe the same students who had written me polite emails explaining their reasons for protesting and thus being absent from class would one minute make promises to complete all their assignments, and the next minute be the source of this burning and smoke. As I walked across the abandoned street, stepping over empty water bottles and cardboard boxes, I remained skeptical that these same students would cause any violence. And as I came closer to the ramble of dark figures perched on median strips in the road and scattered in the streets, I wanted to see what could possibly be destroying my city.
Saying the phrase “my city” in reference to Hong Kong and not Long Branch, New Jersey, where I was born still strikes me as partially profound and partially profane. When I told people back in New Jersey about being tear-gassed during the protest, they replied, “Why would you put your life at risk? You’re not Chinese.” I am not Chinese. I am African-American; in Hong Kong, children will point at me, old men will stare rudely at me, and the customs officials will always pull me out of line at the airport to be searched. Yet the lush hillside backdrop of this city is as familiar to me as the crisply cut suburban lawns of my American childhood. In the years I have lived in Hong Kong, I have realized myself, grown creatively, and matured personally in the city’s closet-sized apartments and stifling humidity, while I have listened to the clink of Mahjong tiles and the phlegmatic cough of its old men, smelled the scents of ripped open slabs of cows in the markets and the fragrance of sun-drying abalone. I could live the rest of my life somewhere else but suddenly always have a yearning to taste the syrup of iced lemon tea. It would be the nostalgia of home.