Lebanese author A. Naji Bakhti’s debut is a comical coming-of-age tale of a boy growing up within the confines of post-civil-war Beirut.
With a Muslim father, Christian mother, and a curious little sister, the young Adam Najjar navigates adolescence in the vibrant coastal city.
In Bakhti’s “Between Beirut and the Moon,” Najjar flirts with adulthood as the Lebanese capital teeters between peace and conflict while flourishing in its multiple identities.
Despite the harsh realities of war and limited finances, and the difficult schoolyard choices children must make, there is a brightness to Najjar’s world that comes in the form of his family’s never-ending ability to adjust, his father’s books, and the scenarios that play out in his life.
A sharp wit and endless curiosity drown out the bombs falling around his sixth-floor apartment off Hamra Street in Ras Beirut as his family hides in the bathroom for safety.
Bakhti displays Beirut in all its multifaceted brilliance, pluralism, and conflicts and through Najjar, his family, and friends tries to make sense of the complex histories of characters, and religious and political tensions.
With the works of Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish nearby, a mother who wants him to live out his dream, and his father’s articles and obituaries, the Najjar family members force light into the dark corners of their lives.
In an old city that has built and rebuilt itself, Bakhti manages to convey the dream of a young boy, in a humorous way, when life wants to weigh him down.
Bakhti does not romanticize Beirut but creates an ever-increasing feel of belonging, and a love of the imperfect and sometimes dangerous. There is a fighting spirit for home, one that asks of his main character, why would you ever want to leave Beirut for the moon?
Because between Beirut and the moon, anything can happen. It is where life takes place.
Source: Manal Shakir