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In his latest novel, Carlo Akatcherian casts a tender and lucid gaze upon today’s Lebanon, a country wounded yet resilient. This fresco celebrates the beauty of a nation and its people, carried by elegant writing.

What remains of Lebanon, this small country of breathtaking beauty, a jewel of the Middle East, after decades of fratricidal wars, political instability, and an unprecedented economic crisis? This question permeates Carlo Akatcherian’s novel, Je ne te dirai jamais adieu, published by Artliban Calima Editions. A professor of medicine and a writer, Akatcherian delivers with this sixth opus a work vibrating with emotions, which delicately examines the soul of his native country.

The publishing house Artliban Calima, which published the novel, deserves attention. Founded in 2019 by Nidal Haddad, a multidisciplinary artist, Calima stands out for its commitment to sensitive and inspiring literature. Publishing Akatcherian’s texts was therefore a natural choice for this young house, already recognized for its standards and originality.

The narrative opens with the tragic fate of Nabil, a brilliant surgeon in Beirut, recently bereaved by the loss of his wife Nadia, a victim of the apocalyptic double explosion that devastated the port and the heart of the Lebanese capital on August 4, 2020. Stunned by grief, paralyzed by the violence of the blast that took his beloved, Nabil wanders through a devastated, unrecognizable city. The “Lebanon, hospital of the Middle East,” as the author bitterly notes, has vanished in smoke. What remains is immense pain, the shock of the survivors, the muted anger of a people betrayed by their leaders.

Faced with this apocalyptic scene, skillfully conveyed by Akatcherian’s pen, a dilemma arises: should one leave, turn the page, rebuild one’s life elsewhere, or rather stay, root oneself in one’s homeland, and fight to rebuild it? This is the great feat of the novel, exploring, through the torment of Nabil and the gallery of characters around him, the agony of exile and the power of roots.

The narrative captivates and moves readers with the tenderness of the author’s gaze on his characters, each more endearing than the last. There is Tanios, a wise old man with a pure heart, a true oracle who dispenses his advice from his renovated mill, a haven of peace and spirituality. Mariana, a young woman of insolent beauty, who sacrificed her honor to save her ill mother. Wassim, a street kid with a boundless imagination, cut down in full dream by the death of his docker father, also a victim of the deadly explosion. These are all battered fates, yet still standing, with secret wounds healed by the grace of solidarity.

The great strength of Akatcherian’s novel is to breathe, amid the rubble and chaos, a wind of hope and brotherhood. Like Nabil and his fellow sufferers, Lebanon wavers under the blows of History, but it does not break. Driven by a collective resurgence, an ardent thirst for life, the victims of yesterday stand up, organize, and unite. The scene at Tanios’s mill, one year to the day after the tragedy, is a rare emotional accuracy. People dance, laugh and cry, but the essence is there: life continues, against all odds.

Je ne te dirai jamais adieu is also a highly virulent political pamphlet. Under the guise of fiction, Akatcherian sharply criticizes the Lebanese ruling class, the corrupt who “preach virtue, deaf to the suffering of the people,” obsessed with their communal privileges. “To mourn in celebration! That seems to me a challenge to death,” he makes Mounir, Nabil’s son, returning from exile, say, stunned by the cynicism of these “irresponsible people, who had taken an entire country and its people hostage.”

But if today’s Lebanon is on the brink, do not think that the author has lost faith in his country. On the contrary, his entire narrative is carried by a lucid tenderness, a love for his land that oozes from every page. In a style uniquely his own, Carlo Akatcherian celebrates the beauty of the landscapes of Mount Lebanon, the colors of the sea blending with the sky, the scents of jasmine at dusk. Poetry also manifests in the lively banter of the inhabitants, their taste for celebration despite hardships, their sense of hospitality and authenticity.

Like a long poem expressing the impossible mourning of a deeply loved country, Je ne te dirai jamais adieu is undoubtedly the novel we needed to read in these chaotic times. A work to discover, which the author will sign on Monday, May 20, 2024, between 5:30 PM and 8:30 PM at the Beirut Municipal Library, Assabil – Monnot.