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Lebanese novelist makes sense of “belonging”

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Lebanese novelist Nada Awar Jarrar describes how her experience of leaving Lebanon at a young age has inspired the characters and plots in her books.

December 9, 2009—

Award-winning Lebanese novelist Nada Awar Jarrar detailed the inspirations, influences and deep impact her experience of leaving Lebanon at a young age had on shaping the plots and vivid characters in her books, during a lecture themed “Writing Lebanon: Of Belonging and Displacement,” organized on December 3 by LAU’s Department of Humanities at the Beirut campus.

“Where does a sense of belonging come from?” the author asked, before revealing that, for her, feelings of belonging to a particular place, or with certain people, are rooted in childhood experiences and relationships.

“As a child,” she said, “I made these journeys growing up in Ras Beirut unaware that they would have such a huge impact on my life once I had lost them as a result of the civil war and of my family’s displacement.”

Awar Jarrar is a recipient of the Commonwealth Foundation’s Best First Book award for Southeast Asia and the South Pacific in 2004 for her first book, Somewhere, Home, which tells a story of three Lebanese women who had been taken from Lebanon under different circumstances and, later in their lives, were on a journey to rediscover their homes, or their places of belonging.

Awar Jarrar was born in Beirut to a Lebanese father and an Australian mother of Lebanese descent. She has lived in London, Paris, Sydney and Washington D.C., but returned to Beirut which she says she has no intention of leaving.

Each of the four novels Awar Jarrar has published manages to capture some sense or aspect of Lebanon.

“I keep hoping that every time I start something new, [aspects of] Lebanon as a whole or in part — Beirut, the mountains, the Mediterranean — will not impose themselves on the narrative,” she said. “But somehow, they always manage to make themselves felt, even when the characters are thousands of miles away.”


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