the fire these times

20. On Primo Levi, the Lebanese Revolution and Life in the Midst of History

This is a conversation with Lina Mounzer. She’s a Beirut-based writer and translator who, like me, took part in the October and post-October protests. I wanted to catch up with her to talk about how she started preparing for the worst yet to come very early on.

This anticipation – of economic hardship, of violence – is a widespread phenomenon in Lebanon but not a lot of people are able to express it so accurately like Lina does. I know I’ve struggled to do so.

Lina experienced the ups and downs of the revolution. She wrote the moods and experiences and facts in her diaries as it was happening, and she has clearly deeply thought about what the past several months in Lebanon have meant, and even the past few decades.

We talked about Lebanon, about revolution as a ‘feeling greater than love’ (which is also the title of a Lebanese film), and why many people actually miss the civil war, or rather are so tired of the present’s uncertainty that the past’s certainties, however horrible, were easier to digest. And we even talked about the impact that the Italian Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s writings have had on her.

This is why I was really looking forward to having this chat with her, and I hope you also enjoy it.


Some of Lina’s previous writings and work:


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Music by Tarabeat. The featured photo is a modified version of the featured photo on the April 2020 LitHub article.

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