cover image Song for the Missing

Song for the Missing

Pierre Jarawan, trans. from the German by Elisabeth Lauffer. World Editions, $17.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-64286-107-5

Lebanese German author Jarawan (The Storyteller) movingly evokes life in Lebanon in his affecting and complex latest. It’s 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, and narrator Amin recalls Beirut before the civil war, when it “meant sunshine, freedom, joie de vivre!”—but those recollections are soon subsumed by his searing depiction of the 2006 bombing of Beirut by Syrian-backed forces. There are amusing flashbacks to Amin’s childhood, as when he and a friend try to understand The Lion King without any audio while watching through a window and taking turns standing on each other’s shoulders, or try to determine the value of an X-Men comic. Those quiet moments only intensify the contrasting scenes of bombs dropping, thugs threatening Amin’s grandmother, and the discoveries of unidentified corpses. Jarawan acknowledges the idiosyncratic nature of human memory and vividly conveys different strategies for handling memories; in a typically lambent passage, Amin’s grandmother states, “Our country is a house with many rooms.... Those who don’t want to remember live in some of the rooms. Those who can’t forget dwell in the others. And the murderers always live upstairs.” This is a gripping, human look at a tragedy that still haunts an entire nation. (Apr.)