Beirut: City of Regrets

Eli Reed, With, Fouad Ajami, Author, Eli Reed, Photographer W. W. Norton & Company $34.95 (188p) ISBN 978-0-393-02490-6
With a thorough, moving and remarkably unbiased essay by Ajami ( The Vanished Imam ), director of Middle Eastern studies at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, and 128 riveting color photos by Magnum photographer Reed, this book shows how the once ``charmed city'' on the Mediterranean has become a place of ``cruelty and hatred.'' Ajami writes of the sectsShia and Sunni Moslem, Druze, Maronite Christian and Palestinianwho managed to coexist, however tenuously, in Beirut until 1975, when civil war broke out and ``massacre followed massacre.'' Quoting Lebanese poet Nizzar Qabbani, Ajami concludes, ``Nothing remains of old Beirut except the scent of it that blows from old notebooks . . . . '' Reed's photos give flesh and blood (literally and figuratively) to Ajami's prose. Guns, bodies and scenes of destruction are interspersed with the depictions of desperate attempts by the populace to maintain their humanity and live normal lives amid the madness. There are images of a baby's christening, a woman having her hair done in an austere beauty salon, and, in one of the most powerful and upsetting photos, a young couple with a pink baby carriage crouch against a wall to avoid sniper fire. The passionate, sorrowful book is both a tribute to the beleaguered, persevering inhabitants of Beirut and to the beautiful, cosmopolitan city that has fallen victim to the political and religious animosities of the Middle East. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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