A refugee story like no other

  • Book: Shatila Stories
  • Location: Beirut
  • Author: Various

Review Author: JustRetiring



This remarkable book is published by Peirene Press, who specialise in translated ‘thought-provoking contemporary European literature’.

Shatila Stories is a novella – of just over 100 pages – told by some of the occupants of the renowned Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. But the nine stories are told by amateur writers, in collaboration with mentors after a writing workshop, making the overall message even more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Originally established in 1949 for a handful of Palestinian refugees, the camp is now home for thousands of victims of seemingly permanent Middle Eastern crises, most recently the war in Syria.

Amongst the violence, abuse, drug-dealing and despair, hope and the possibility of love come to Adam after he meets Shatha. But will they be able to escape Shatila….?

‘We force ourselves to live here – forced not free.
The concrete buildings huddle in mismatched rows
And between them an alley snakes its way through.
We’re stuck inside this maze. Above our heads
The electric cables tangle with themselves.
Beneath our feet the rain turns streets to mud.
The boy sits by the door too bored to play
His mother cries for a life she can’t describe
We have no home – no home but Shatila.
Spare us your good intentions, your quiet pity.
Instead, look up and raise your fist at the sky.’

Highly recommended, and this short but compelling piece of literature has helped me to see the refugee crisis with fresh eyes, in the same way that ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’ did. Except that the authors of ‘Shatila Stories’ are even closer to the source of so much barely comprehensible daily misery.

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