Saturday, October 06, 2007

Expatriate scribblings

Everywhere I go, and where I can understand them, I buy books. Hence the metres of unread books in my house. Some books I can identify later by the price stickers according to where and when I bought them; other times even the price stickers are completely obfuscating.

'Open Season in Beirut' by Denys Johnson-Davies, on the other hand, is one I bought at Dubai airport when I passed through there. It cost 49 units of Dubai's currency. (You can see how deeply I went into researching Dubai whilst passing through).

I thought the book would give me an insight into life in the Middle East, eg Lebanon. It does - into the lives of usually British expats who treat the Middle East and its residents as commodities. The Author is a Canadian. The stories are fairly unadulterated dreadful. There's the journalist who persuades a female Lebanese sniper to shoot an old man in the street, for the sake of the camera; another guy who fancies himself living with the bedouins but goes and tries to rape one of their daughters instead, the guy who casually mentions to his servant of decades that he might return 'home' to the UK, causing all sorts of alarms; the old man in a British nursing home dreaming of his days out East...

The stories are just episodes in people's lives; most of the time they don't go anywhere; they betray a brutality of foreigners who apparently do not see the local inhabitants as human, and who do not appear to care much about the consequences of their actions. Likeable people (usually men) they are very rarely. There are many deaths in the stories, but the expats do not seem to care greatly.

I thought it was just an expat's scribblings; a guy who is out there, with nothing much to do, imagining things, including that he is a writer. In fact, looking at amazon, it seems our author is a very busy translator of Arabic writings. All I can say is, a translator doth not a writer make. I see also that amazon is not selling this book. That might be a smart move.