‘Oh Salaam!’: Is Change Possible in Post-war Beirut?

Arabic Literature (in English)

An ArabLit review of Najwa Barakat’s Oh, Salaam! is now up at Full Stop: 

Interlink World Fiction cover templateFor many of us, war doesn’t affect daily life — or, at least, skimming over how the war machine shifts global dynamics, it doesn’t seem to. Even so, it makes up a large part of the world’s daily news: who is advancing, who retreating, and how ordinary people continue to cope. We grant the moment of “war” a special status. Just so, novels, memoirs, and poems where war is foregrounded occupy a large place in literary canons.

What gets lost, sometimes, is the time after a conflict. Once the “peace” begins, what happens to those who’ve adapted themselves to a long and brutalizing war? Najwa Barakat’s Oh, Salaam!, written in the fragile peace that followed Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, asks this question. The book, newly translated by Luke Leafgren, is not a large, serious…

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