Memory Has You


Hemingway once said that “war makes great material for writing.” True. Think of all these great books: A Farewell To Arms, The Sun Also Rises, Platoon, War and Peace, to name only a few. The first time I read some of these books, my experience with war – any kind of war – was only through history books. We studied World War I and II in high school. It was an obligatory course for all students since it was in the government baccalaureate program. Never did it cross my mind that one day I would be living through the civil war, let alone writing about it.

I lived through the first nine years of the civil war in Lebanon. During that time I progressed from high school to university, became a teacher, got married, and eventually left for Dubai to escape. Even then in the early 1980s, Dubai was so totally different from my war torn country. It was a quiet and peaceful place and what was most interesting about the city at the time was its openness to the world. It was a cosmopolitan city, a place where East meets West, and for the first time in my life I had this sense of belonging not only to Dubai and the Middle East but to the world.

My husband and I, both lovers of the arts and books, joined the Dubai Arts Society and became a member of the Dubai Art Centre. The centre consisted of a villa with a landing library and rooms for artists to paint and socialize in. So in early 1990, when a writing workshop and a two week evening course was offered at the centre, I grabbed the opportunity. I found the course and the ladies taking the course with me interesting. As with every writing course, we experimented with the different forms and styles. Our last assignment was to write a short story based on a true event or life experience. That’s when I wrote about an incident that had happened to us, my husband and I, during the Lebanese civil war. During all those years I thought I had managed to suppress all those ugly feelings and hurtful memories; I was wrong.

Ever since I was a little girl I dreamt of writing a book one day, but it never occurred to me to write about the civil war. Not even when I was living it. It was like my memory had filed things away and had stored them for me in my subconscious. That’s how my book The Lost I, was born and that story was its first chapter.

“You think you have a memory; but it has you.” John Irving

ChK

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