Exactly two years ago, on August 4, 2020, two gigantic explosions of ammonium nitrate, with apocalyptic shock waves, pulverized the port of Beirut, devastated the city, causing 221 deaths and 6,500 injuries. It was a Tuesday at the end of the day, recalls Diane Mazloum, who was then in her parents’ apartment, whose half-ton bay window then jumped off its hinges and shattered in the middle of the children’s room. “The first words that came to me when I got up were: ‘I am no longer Lebanese. » A fear coupled with a question:
“How do you belong to a country that no longer exists? »
Four months later, the novelist of “Beirut, the night” and “The Golden Age” has nevertheless returned to the capital of the country of Cedars, where she was not born (she was born in Paris and grew up in Rome), but from which she viscerally originates. On the night of December 23 to 24, 2020, she chose to sleep on a cot placed in a room at the National Museum of Beirut. She did more than comply with the monastic rule of the “My night at the museum” collection, where writers dream when works of art sleep, she reconciled herself with her story of exile and that, traumatized, of this Lebanon that t used to be called “the Switzerland of the Middle East”.
When Beirut Exploded, by Charif Majdalani
In this huge building, located on the green line separating the enemy factions of East Beirut and West Beirut, repeatedly occupied by soldiers and ruined by the civil war, lying in the middle of sarcophagi, Greco-Roman statues and mosaics , Diane Mazloum (whose surname means “oppressed”, “oppressed”) gets rid of her chill Western ways and becomes Lebanese again. A child of the sea and the sun, of a flourishing and luxuriant land, of a charismatic and ecumenical nation, of a utopia stronger than the devastated reality of today.
“The National Museum” (Inventory, 18 euro) has become his intimate refuge. This is the great merit of this collection, directed by Alina Gurdiel: it collects confessions and meditations that only the place and the penumbra favor. It looks like a hall of mirrors. After Lydie Salvayre at Picasso, Leïla Slimani in Venice or Eric Chevillard at the National Museum of Natural History, Lola Lafon will tell in “When you will listen to this song” (Stock, August 17) the night she spent at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. White night for dark night.
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The National Museumby Diane Mazloum, Stock, 180 p., 18 euros.
Published in “L’OBS” of August 4, 2022.