33 Years Later: Memory and Violence in Literary Sabras and Shatilas

Representations of the Sabra Shatila massacres. September 16, 1982.


It’s now been thirty-three years since the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps. They continue to show up in novels, poems, and memoirs, seen from different vantages:

Dia al-Azzawi's Dia al-Azzawi’s “Sabra and Shatila Massacre”

In his introduction to Caroline Rooney and Rita Sakr’s The Ethics of Representation in Literature, Art, and Journalism, Gilbert Achcar writes that “no work of fiction can match the power of reality when it comes to the Sabra and Shatila massacre.” No fictional representation, he writes, can match the power of a documentary film like Massaker.

But artistic representations are not aiming to hold a mirror to the moment, but to place it into a context of other moments, to interrogate how we understand it, how it was exploited, how it changed in our memories; how it changed our understandings of self.

The massacre happened in 1982, between September 16 and 18.

Jean Genet’s “Quatre…

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About Taline Voskeritchian

Writing teacher at Boston University; translator (from Arabic and Armenian); prose writer; occasional editor; incurable wanderer.
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