Jihad Chahine, writer from Lebanon
Diafanís magazine was honored to meet the distinguished Lebanese writer: Jihad Chahine. Interview dialogue was loaded with warm sentiments and touching expressions.
Jihad Chahine, you are a Lebanese writer. When did you discover that you have interests in writing?
I was in middle school, and literature classes attracted me. I was impressed by the strange stories, and I was flying up with my imagination as it happened, so I could imagine the faces of heroes. I was beginning to suspect my emotions, but I loved the theater. It was not available after the means of communication, the only means of communication was the radio, so I spent my evenings listening to the plays of the Rahbany broadcasted by the official Beirut radio, and during school ceremonies I was making sketches. I remember preparing one of the sketches from the play Ya Eich Ya Eich on the occasion of the Teacher’s Day. My attention was sponsored by a smuggler who said, “There is always with the lonely mountains, a nocturnal corridor, rejected by wide roads.”
I do not know how sailed my imagination. I carried the pen and wrote a sentimental poem. I called it Al Jibal Al Mouhisha Mamar Likol Inssan (The Lonely Mountains are a Pathway for each Person). I presented it to the professor of Arabic literature who, once he read it, admired it, but instead of praise, he approached me and pulled me from my ear and told me: “If you want to write, write yourself and do not imitate anyone”, I did not answer and came out of him sad.
However, I did not discover that I had an interest in writing until what happened was not into account. My father died and I left the school and turned to work.
I worked as a carpenter to lose my hand after an accident.
Civil war broke out, I resorted to selling newspapers because at that time, I did not find anyone who could accept me with one hand worker. While running on the roads, strange things happened to me, I was writing them down, and a woman was forming in my emotions, this feeling was charging me with sweet joy, and I didn’t know why. I was taking advantage of the bounced newspapers, so I read them in the house or in the shelter when the shelling intensified. I was writing down my impressions and feelings without a goal other than to write, and without knowing that I would one day become a writer.
. What were your first steps in this context?
During the sale of newspapers, I got two incidents… Two stories impressed in my memory, until the day I came to write them. These two stories were beginning to form the art of my story, I hid them.
The assassination of the President of the Republic of Lebanon and the news that they identified his body through a candy, his wife put in his pocket; raised a mixture of emotions in myself at once… Sadness, anger, warmth and love, and among my tears, I wrote a short story about A Candy. After writing, I went to the home of Mr. Talal Yahfoufi and he was the technical director of a weekly magazine. I did not find him, his wife welcomed me then, she politely asked me about my request, I told her I want to leave to him these papers. I left to him the story and wrote to him on a small clip the next word: Mr. Talal, I am Jihad Chahine, you do not know me, and I did not get the honor to meet you, it’s my story I left it to you, if you like it, please help me to publish it, and if not, tear it throw it in the trash without any regret, and thank you in both cases. Thank you to your wife for welcoming me well. AndI wrote my home address and I left. Two weeks passed before I received an invitation to visit him. How surprised I was when he welcomed me and my friend with his hand holding the magazine saying to me “open and read”, I cried while I was reading. The story was placed in a door called: Creative Pens. I looked at him and he said “I created this door for your wonderful story, and you will always write to us”.
Was the beginning difficult?
The very beginning was difficult, because I didn’t know how to start. I had some stories and writings achieved. But I could only publish them in this magazine. As you know, entering the world of writers, is to have good connections and know good publishers. But, I almost knew nobody at that time. No publishing house accepted to publish my stories, because revenues were not guaranteed and this is logic. After all, publishing houses are not charity associations.
Civil war stopped. But our country’s situation was not stableyet, also my life was directed into a new path full of additional anxieties. But, stories in my mind were pushing me to see the light, so I decided to write and publish a book on my own account, even if I had to borrowsome money and I did. After all, I didn’t wanttohide my works. I got printing quotations from several printing houses, but moneywasn’t enough, so I went to visit Arc En Ciel NGO, seeking help. By the way this is an association that takes care of the handicapped people. Fortunately, I was welcomed and offered to have my book signed in the association’s saloon in addition to a sufficient sumof money to help me publishing my book. I quickly contacted a printing house and a painter to paint the book’s cover. The book is achieved. I called it Nihayat Qissa Lam Tabda’ Baad (End of a Story that did not Begin Yet…)I was so happy butbeingworriedabout the result, made me feel gloomy somehow”.
The Arc en Ciel Association, prepared it all. The venue, audience, media and press. Everything is ready for the book signature. At the day of the event, I found myself encountered by people who love me and I love them too. The celebration was a big success; I did not expect. It was anunforgettable day, so the people who attended it, to share with me my earliest steps in writing. Media and press wrote positively about me, founder of Arc en Ciel Association Pierre Issa supported me. Only one gap persisted, no publishing house was involved.
The very next day I began to distribute my book to the capital’s libraries. The weight was heavy, but I didn’t feel exhausted neither pain in my hand that was carrying my first baby.
The first edition was sold, so I released the second and third editions, thanks to the support of the press and media.
Yes, the beginning wasn’t easy, but it was loaded with love and eagerness.
What do you prefer to write: poems, stories or novels?
Short stories. Because I’m not obliged to prepare early strategy. All is that I should wait for aweird story to occur or to hear an unfamiliar one from somebody who might become the main character of the same story he shared. By the way, the stories I write are real. My artistic scripting and imagination are applied no doubt, for the course of the stories.
It is enough for me to learn about an odd or alienated story or event, to start imagining the pictures and assembling them, to put a story on a track.
The short story is intense and agile. You don’t need lot of description for the reader to be able to imagine the characters, places and times. Also you might leave the reader to expect an end you don’t determine.
It is worth mentioning that I’m planning to write a beautiful and extraordinary novel, as for poems I’m in the process of finalizing a prose poetry book, I entitled Asmaytuki Habibati (I Named You My Love).
Are there any specific messages you like to deliver to your readers through your writings and why?
To tell you the truth, if we believe that God didn’t create the man in vain, but for a purpose that exists in his profound divine inner self, He found him and allowed that he will to be tested; we simply understand that every existing person carries a message.
I believe that you agree with me that each one of us carries a message. God wants us to exchange our practices of existence and joy of life. Each person is an outcoming message to the other, and each person is naturally born sane and wise, sentimental and skilled; so he loves to convey during his life to other, his actions, imaginations, joys and sorrow, successes and failures… it’s like he wishes to leave his entire life to a different person.
That is the reason that I write without having any intention… I hope I didn’t make you feel confused, I’m not saying that I carry a divine message through my writings, all is that, Ijust write.
Would you like to share with us some titles of your books? Which one do you think is the most important and why?
I have achieved two books, the first one I called Nihayat Qissa Lam Tabda’ Baad..(End of a Story that did not Begin Yet..) it’s a book that contains short stories. Events of two stories happened during the civil war, the rest of the stories happened in different times.
I entitled the second book Al Mar’a Katabat.. (The Woman Wrote…), it is also consisted of several stories and some prose poems.
Also, numerous articles, and stories I wrote, were published in newspapers and magazines.
As you know, I started to write late in life, due to social and financial circumstances.
Also, I am an employee at a ministry, so I have not enough time to dedicate it to writing.
Anyway, I am writing a poetry book that will be issued soon and as I previously said, I’m outlining a novel that,to my beliefs will not be finished in the near future. Also, I wrote a wide collection of theological reflections that I will present to the Church in order to obtain a permission to publish it in a book.
As for your question about the most important thing I wrote; to me I cannot assume which book is better, since each book is of different subjects and was written in different circumstances.
But if you meant to say, which book is closer to my heart, I would say Nihayat Qissa Lam Tabda’ Baad..(End of a Story that did not Begin Yet..)it is thebook that I called, my first baby. This book was my first joy and victory.
Would you like to share your works with people from other parts of the world?
Yes. I know that my experience in writing is humble, but momentousevents,created me a writer through misery. And, as I told you previously, I love to leave my humble self, before I leave this world,to every person, so, I hope that my books will be read outside Lebanon, and I hope that they will be translated into all languages.
The newspapers’ seller, that boy who was wandering the streets of Beirut with one hand, may be a picture of a truncated humanity, that can be completed when our feelings meet the other.
We have been told that some of your works will be transmitted into scenarios for TV series or movies. Is it right? If so! tell us about it, please?
I have compiled two stories from my first book, and merged themtogether, to form one story for a film, in collaboration with Charles Maria, who is a promising filmmaker; and producer Mireille Abi Nader, who by the way is an active producer. But we are still looking for sponsors to finance us.
Regarding the story about a newspapers’ seller who was at the age of openness to life, I would not say adolescence, the boy who suddenly found himself with one hand facing a tragedy, which is my story anyway; and the story of a priest from my second book; I hope both stories will be turned into a TV film.
Do you aim to have your series or films translated or dubbed into different languages?
Yes, I previously told you, what is the purpose of our existence in life… I want the story of my life toucheseach person… and I wish my writings will be translated and my series and movies dubbed into many languages
Do you like to add anything?
Yes, of course. I want to thank you so much for your kindnessand attention Ms. Marisa Avogadro Thomé for interviewing me. In fact, it is touching to learn that a Lebanese descendant like you, have incomparable passion and enthusiasm to Lebanon and its people.
Also, I want to thank Mrs. Hoda Zohrob from the bottom of my heart, for her noble sentiments towards humankind, and for she was the link between you and me.
Poetry night at SinElFil Municipality, Beirut
Honoring ceremony photografs at Ghobeyri Municipality,
Interviewed by Mag. Marisa Avogadro Thomé, journalist and writer from Argentina
Translated from Arabic into English by Mrs Hoda Zohrob -Lebanon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
– Jihad Youssef Chahine, born in Beirut, actually on 5/5/1958 – according to his ID he’s born on 5/6/1958.
– He finished his elementary, middle and high school classes in Beirut Public School.
– He was 11 years when his father passed away.
– He lost his hand in 1974 in a work accident (carpentry) at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war. Due tofinancialcondition, he worked as a Newspapers’ seller. It was a harsh experience but taught him lot of lessons.
– His disability did not prevent him from completing his studies to finish high school at Ghobeyri Public School.
– He works at the Ministry of Social Affairs – Securing Disabled’ Rights Program, as an investigator.
– Married with three children.
– He has many publications such as a stories collection titled Nihayat Qissa Lam Tabda’ Baad…and another stories collection titled Al Mar’a Katabat….
– He wrote for many newspapers and magazines. He has attended many radio and TV interviews.
– Member of the Lebanese Writers Union – He says ‘The worst thing in life is to cross without leaving a trace”, and that he learns from sorrow, how to create joy.