The Memory of the Great War in a Selection of Writings by Mārūn ʿAbbūd

in La rivista di Arablit, a. IX, n. 17-18, dicembre 2019, pp. 81-96.

The consequences of the First World War left a lasting mark on the life of many writers. The Lebanese critic, journalist, poet, and writer of fiction Mārūn ‘Abbūd (1886-1962) is one of them. During the conflict, extreme poverty and starvation forced him to abandon his work and move to a village on Mount Lebanon eking an existence for his family. Only after the end of the war did he return to writing. From that time on, references to the Great War and its aftermath started to appear in his writings. The aim of this paper is to document these references in Mārūn ‘Abbūd’s literary writing, chiefly through a selection of short stories from the collection Wuǧūh wa ḥikāyāt (Faces and Stories, 1945). As it will emerge from the analysis, however brief and rare, these writings bear witness to the enormous pain that remembering the event caused the author. They also belong to the number of voices that shed light on the dramatic changes that the Great War and its aftermath brought about in Lebanese society.

The literature of the Great War escapes the spatial and temporal boundaries, both because the effects of the conflict were perceived directly and indirectly in a vast portion of territory, and because many literary responses to those events occurred even after several decades1. Alongside the detailed descriptions of military actions, two main aspects emerge related to this narrative: on the one hand, the attention to local and daily details of a life for which we want to preserve our memory; on the other, the adoption of a non-objective but personal point of view, which can give voice to individual stories dispersed in the sea of history. As the historians Isnenghi and Rochat have pointed out, the local aspect of the narration and the personal point of view do not affect the strength of this narrative and «non sempre del resto la concentrazione spaziale comporta un restringimento dello sguardo»2. On the contrary, they allow us to frame an experience «dove i grandi rivolgimenti politici e militari sono vissuti come drammi personali che influenzano uno spazio affettivo: la propria regione, il proprio paese, la propria casa»3. The description of this space in a given text will be therefore a representation of the model of the world of a given author. In other words, the way in which an author describes the space in a given text related to the war can illuminate his position about this event.


  1. On the temporal classification of the First World War literature see, among others, M. Higonnet, The 2005 ACLA Presidential Address: Whose Can(n)on? World War I and Literary Empires, in “Comparative Literature”, LVII, 3 (2005), pp. vi-xviii; G. Capecchi, Lo straniero nemico e fratello. Letteratura italiana e Grande guerra, CLUEB, Bologna 2013. For a general overview of these studies see also M. Peroni, La Grande Guerra nella letteratura contemporanea. Una riflessione sul canone e sul romanzo storico, in “In Limine. Quaderni di letterature viaggi teatri”, 11 (2015), pp. 118-129.
  2. M. Isnenghi; G. Rochat, La Grande Guerra 1914-1918, il Mulino, Bologna 2008, pp. 555-556, quoted in M. Peroni, La Grande Guerra nella letteratura contemporanea, cit., p. 124.
  3. Ibid., pp. 125-126.

This is an Article from La Rivista di Arablit - Anno IX, numeri 17-18, dicembre 2019

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Arturo Monaco | Dottore di ricerca in Civiltà, Culture e Società dell’Asia e dell’Africa, presso il Dipartimento Istituto Italiano di Studi Orientali – ISO, Sapienza Università di Roma.