Sitt Marie Rose
That’s a real story which happened very early in the war, in the very first year. The fundamentalists, the Cristian fundamentalists kidnapped or arrested a Lebanese woman who was pro-Palestinian. At that time, most everybody pretended to be pro-Palestinian. Some were, and some were not. And she disappeared. And of course, nine months later, they kind of admitted that they killed her, but never officially. And I had met that woman twice. She was not a friend of mine, but I’d met her twice.
And I somehow — she impressed me, she was very outspoken and very passionate. She was the head of a school she started; the first school for mentally disturbed children in the whole Middle East. And most of the children in her school were mentally disturbed. In my novel, I made them deaf and mute, because people always look for symbols, and they would have thought that the Arab people are retarded. So, I really didn’t want that interpretation. You can control interpretation.
So, I made them deaf and mute, because most Arab people can’t express their opinions. They’re always under totalitarian rules. So, that book — I imagine the people who killed her, but they were young people I knew. So, see, the thing I hate most about war is that they send young people who are very innocent, normal young men, and overnight they become killers. They give them a gun. And once they killed the enemy, they are not the human being that they were before they killed. I think about that.
So, I heard the mothers, I knew the type of young men who must have executed her, but the reaction was divided, of course. The pro-Palestinian people immediately liked the book as being an important book. It was banned, I received one or two death threats, I didn’t complain, because I thought you attack them your way, they attacked you their way, I can’t go and complain, I took my risk.1 Then I left Beirut, I came to Paris, and back to America. The book was — it’s in America that it is most well-known, because it’s taught in many, many colleges up till today, 40 years later. In France, relatively few people know about it.