This Arab Life: A Generation's Journey Into Silence
This Arab Life is an intimate, searching, and honest exploration of a rising Arab generation’s descent into silence in the 1980s. At once personal and panoramic, granular and sweeping, the book offers a raw account of unremitting Arab mire that anticipates the region’s present-day chaos.
“What’s the sweep of history bereft of the lived moment? What is it without the warp and weft of human experience that weave a telltale story?”
This Arab Life was a three-year journey. A difficult one. An intimate conversation between the heart and mind, at times rueful, at others wry; still at others hard and painful. I suppose the journey was in keeping with that much longer one I’ve had in this Arab life.
But as the subtitle—A Generation’s Journey into Silence–let’s on, the memoir is not that of an individual but of the generation that came of political age in the 1980s in the Levant: the times that shaped us; the way we internalized our parents’ myriad dejections and disappointments; the pragmatism and silence that defined us; and the dispiriting inheritance we inexorably bequeathed our own children. If I offer this personal history with a small measure of confidence, it is because ours as Levantines, as Arabs, has been in so many ways a shared experience–across geographies and identities and affinities and the peculiarities of circumstance and situation.
My hope is that the reader draws from the story I tell the contexts and clarity that I found in weaving it. The last of the 20th century that presaged the 2011 Arab Revolts is a history rich in irony, unrealized promise, derailed agency, collapsing ideas, rising police states, and bad omens. They don’t obscure the idylls that the fortunate among us built for ourselves, each in our own way, but that itself illuminates the clever detachments we formed to better negotiate increasingly coercive terrains.