Without adherence to chronological sequence, the study centers on pre-war, war and post-war novels, focusing on their interrelatedness, particularly when it comes to preoccupation with modernity. The thrust of the work has been on how these texts inscribe a sense of the city rather than on how each writer views the city individually. My approach has been interpretive, but also indirectly evaluative where the aesthetic value of each text is embedded in the study of figures of speech, tropes, metaphors, sights, sounds and smells, allegory, genre, plot, narrative techniques and so forth.
Among the issues that have transpired in this study is that Beirut in the modern Arabic novel is not a totalizing entity to be categorized, branded or concluded. Rather than an “absolute grid, within which objects are located and events occur” (Curry 1995: 5), the city emerges as performative, partial and incomplete.
The study has shown that Beirut is an aporetic city of uncertainties and conflicts, inspiring a rich variety of fictional narratives captured by Lebanese and Arab writers from different times and places. These texts by different authors speak Beirut in a variety of ways and in diverse conglomerations, producing a multiplicity of worlds and a city without closure. In the novels, Beirut emerges as an empirical, abstract, allegorical and spectral entity. It fluctuates between the real and the imagined, the public and the private, the urban and the rural, the masculine and the feminine, and the ancient and the modern, destabilizing any teleological imperative. Indeed, these texts unsettle any certainties that may come with these polar conceptions and thus cause a disturbing sense of anxiety and disillusionment.
In these novels, the characters are trapped by spatial conditions that they cannot fathom or understand. Atmospheric and topographical elements as well as political and military conflicts alter and transform spaces, erase boundaries and contest maps by adding new ones predicated on ideological and armed struggles, personal desires, recollections, quotidian trajectories, individual interactions and textual representations.
In the study, Beirut emerges as a textual city understood through a series of tropes, images and metaphors such as light, darkness, fire, posters, graffiti, advertisements, cafes, Coca-Cola bottles, French and Arabic bread, bakeries, maqāhī and cafes, garbage piles, shattered glass, cars, and so forth.