Baria Ahmar is from Lebanon just as the name of her book suggests. She has been a broadcast journalist in her career but writing is her passion. Her first book was a collection of poems. “It was all the poems I had written throughout my life and I just gathered them together for the book, Baria recollected.
Tango in Beirut however is a love story written by a journalist who has lived through the wars and many other events. The story begins in 2000 there is withdrawal from South Lebanon and what came with it. The story ends in 2005 with the assassination of the late Prime Minister.
“This was a major period in our history. I lived it as a journalist and I chose to tell all the miseries the Lebanese went through with a love story. So the story has love and politics too,” reflected Baria.
However the story does not have a happy ending. “There is no happy ending for me yet. But the happiness is all over. It is the struggle of all Lebanese to find love and joy in the middle of difficult life we have had forever, since I can remember. But in the book it is the voice of a woman mostly, but not just a Lebanese woman, it is the voice of all women in the world. The women who paid price for the ambitions and the greed of men. They want more money, more land and more of everything and we suffer, we cry and we lose our children to wars and greeds,”expressed Baria.
The author herself has had relatives who have had to go through the effects of war and the book also reflects the experiences she went through childhood. “I am the child of the war. When the war began in Lebanon which was called the civil war was never civil at all. I was 10 when it start and it was not civilised at all. But when I was writing this I was telling to myself that this could be an old story and wondered who is going to be interested in that? When I decided to publish I discovered that it is a never ending story especially in the Middle East because what we are going through in the Middle East and especially in Syria and Palestine is still about war and death. It is as if its news on TV but it is my own story that has been repeating for the last 30 to 40 and even 50 years in my beautiful land in the Middle East — Lebanon.”
Do you hope for the betterment of the land and hope that one day people would be able to see the beauty of the land instead of the scars of the land?
“Very much,” she replied. I see only the beauty of the land. The history of this region has been always been hard and bloody but the beauty of the land, its people and the history of the culture, the poetry and the love are rich.”
It was said that when the crusaders came to Jerusalem and the region they learnt more about love from the poetry of the region. But there has always been misery as well. Could it be that love is much more alive and appreciated when there is misery around?
“I cannot agree more. But why do we have to see the children dying in the Arab world to realise that we need peace. We need peace in the region and it is time to have the peace and to continue our evolvement as human beings and civilisations. These wars are pulling us back. And we cannot evolve as societies in the middle of all this. And writing is the meter and that is why it is so nourishing to see the youth showing keen interest in literature. The west does not really know us and the only way for the west to know our culture is by ensuring that our literature is translated in English language,” pointed out the author.
The author’s own son is now in the process of translating Tango in Beirut to English. “Kevin is now discovering the beauty of Arabic literature and our history while translating the book.”