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  Guns & Roses  

Sex & Violence
  Vol II : issue 1

  Amrita Pritam
  Mrinal Pande
  Evelyne Accad
  Gagan Gill
  Selina Hossain
  Only in Print

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Illustrations by VISWAJYOTI GHOSH

Evelyne Accad

On Sexuality and war

And this city, what is it? A whore. Who could imagine a whore sleeping with a thousand men and continuing to live? The city receives a thousand bombs and continues its existence nonetheless. The city can be summarised by these bombs... When we had destroyed Beirut, we thought we had destroyed it... We had destroyed this city at last. But when the war was declared finished and the pictures of the incredible desolation of Beirut were broadcasted, we discovered we had not destroyed it. We had only opened a few breaches in its walls, without destroying it. For that,other wars would be necessary.

This city is like a great suffering being, too mad, too overcharged, broken now, gutted, and raped like those girls raped by thirty or forty militiamen, and are now mad and in asylums because their families, Mediterranean to the end, would rather hide than cure... but how does one cure the memory? The city, like those girls, was raped... In the City, this centre of all prostitutions, there is a lot of money and a lot of construction that will never be finished. Cement has mixed with the earth, and little by little has smothered most of the trees. If not all.

If between these two passages you had to guess which one was written by a woman and which by a man, what would your reaction be? In these two images of Beirut, two opposing feelings are being expressed, two contrasting visions emerge. The first one wants to cast out the sinner, the whore, source of all evils, decadence, and the problems of modern existence. The total and violent destruction of this woman is seen as the only way out of an inextricable situation. The second feels sorry for the woman, the city, victim of rape, of man’s violence. Mediterranean customs are accused. Hypocrisy and the oppression of women are presented as being at the origin of madness and the destruction of the city. The first quote is by a man, Elias Khoury, author of The Small Mountain, the second by a woman, Etel Adnan, author of Sitt Marie Rose.

This difference between a man and a woman’s vision of Beirut and their ways of expressing them appeared to me even more clearly in 1987 in Beirut, as I watched my women friends, determined to cross the city two or three times a week, crossing the demarcation line — the most desolate, depressing and often dangerous spot in Beirut — having to go most of the time on foot, as only few cars with special permission are allowed through, being convinced that by this gesture, real as well as symbolic, Lebanon’s reunification would take place. They do this against all logic, under the ironic and sometimes admiring gaze of their male companions. They defy the laws of weapons, the militias, the political games. They told me how that site had become a meeting place where each morning they looked forward to seeing this one or that one, walking steadfastly in the apocalyptic space the museum passage has become, and that they smile to each other while walking, conscious that their march is not an ordinary one, that their crossing is a daring act, important and vital to Lebanon’s survival.

p. 1 p. 2 p. 3  p. 4 p. 5 p. 6  p. 7  

 
Evelyne Accad is a novelist, folk song writer and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois. She divides her time between Paris and Urbana-Champaign