cover image Spirit of the Phoenix: Beirut and the Story of Lebanon

Spirit of the Phoenix: Beirut and the Story of Lebanon

Tim Llewellyn, Lawrence Hill, $16.95 paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-56976-603-3

As former BBC Middle East correspondent Llewellyn observes, Lebanese politics can seem so bewildering to outsiders "that the media practically ceased trying to report [on] Lebanon's plight." His smart if unbalanced mélange of reportage and oral history makes a fine attempt at redressing the omission. Llewellyn creates affectionate and well-rounded portraits of individuals and communities—offering, for instance, a much more sympathetic view of Hezbollah than most Western writers could achieve, even while acknowledging that organization's more unsavory characteristics. "In his position," Llewellyn writes of an interview subject, "I too would support Hezbollah." The author doesn't extend such humanity to Israel, but reduces the Jewish state to an aggressor. In this Llewellyn provides an excellent example of his own maxim that in wartime there's a tendency "to see the point of view of the man or woman in the ditch next to you," rather than attempt a nuanced view of historical struggle. (Sept.)