Bullet, Paper, Rock: A Memoir of Words and Wars


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Bullet, Paper, Rock is a kind of wonder-room of glimpses of childhood and youth in Lebanon, of family entanglements, migration, war and, above all, language, the trilingual man’s love affair with language. Abbas El-Zein’s English is startling
in its serenity and precision against a seething background of loss and calamity, at once personal and universal. Abbas El-Zein speaks about the things that matter most to everyone. His voice is not one you will easily forget.
— Robert Dessaix

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Bullet, Paper, Rock: A Memoir of Words and Wars
Abbas El-Zein

Weight 0.5 kg





256 pages

About the Book: In Abbas El-Zein’s new memoir, conflicts abound – either tragic or amusing, sometimes both – between teachers and students, left- and right-wing factions, civilians and militiamen and, not least, French and Arabic, two languages vying for primacy in the post-colonial worlds of Beirut and the Levant, with English coming fast from behind. By the time he graduated from high school, El-Zein had nearly drowned in the Mediterranean, survived the breakout of civil war and lived through the violent death of two close family members. He witnessed Syrian and Israeli soldiers invade his country and, from his bedroom balcony, saw the mushroom cloud of the explosion that killed hundreds of American and French marines. But while war and tragedy struck every now and then, everyday life continued unabated, rich with humour, serendipity and love of many kinds. Bullet, Paper, Rock is a story of survival, and a meditation on desire and loss, language and violence. It is at once a requiem for a Levantine past gone sour – from the innocent 1970s, through September 11 and its aftermath, to the cataclysms of the Arab Spring and the Israel-Palestine conflict – and a tribute to women of his family – “weavers whose fabric of choice is hope, they were hard at work, at night as in daytime, carving out viable lives, ones in which they loved and were loved aplenty”. About the Author: Abbas El-Zein has written two acclaimed works of fiction – a novel, Tell the Running Water and a collection of short stories, The Secret Maker of the World – as well as an award-winning memoir, Leave to Remain. Abbas has published essays and short stories about war, identity and displacement for HEAT Magazine, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Age, Meanjin, Overland and Tank Magazine. He is professor of environmental engineering at the University of Sydney ISBN: 978-0-6458745-3-2 Cover artwork: Red Sky over Tyre, photograph by Abbas El-Zein