August 16, 2015
The Spanish literary magazine Detour reviews Douaihy’s “June rain”

The Spanish literary magazine Detour reviews Douaihy’s “June rain”

Oscar Brox, for Detour, July 2015.
Approximate translation!

Back to the past, to follow the traces of time, and collect the voices of other lives. Memory has some frustrating puzzles the pieces of which refuse to fit. However many documents we collect, testimonies and details to provide their nuances, the past is never lived again with the same intensity…

That moment, intimate and familiar, has been isolated for years, like a tear that refuses to slide down the cheek or that word on the tip of the tongue. Something represses it. Perhaps it is modesty or shame, or the silent wounds that bring to mind the memory of a turbulent time. A time of war and violence, where brothers are at war with each other… He, the abandoned child, couldn’t understand that the complex geopolitical situation was like a puzzle in which the missing piece was for the family memory. Intimate memories. That of a lost father, and an outraged mother.

June rain evokes the events in Lebanon in 1958, when civil war destroyed the precarious balance between peoples and religions. Blood and fire and exile. Elia, the protagonist, is a Lebanese who emigrated to the United States… The murder of Yusuf, the father; the grieving mother, Kamle; and the uncertainty of a son, Elia, who cannot avenge his father’s death because all have conspired to protect the fog of forgetfulness of those years of violence. Despite the exile and the trappings of Western culture, the higher education and emotional learning, Elia still notes in his gut a wound that has never healed, which drives him to return to Lebanon to gather details of his father’s death; to make sense of the pain that life has imposed on him; to the silence surrounding the incident at the Torre del Aire.

To Jabbour Douaihy, the work of memory never seems to find an end. Fear and shame are due to the accuracy of memory. Rife gaps, voids, contradictory statements are tracks that lead to a dead end. Elia returns to Lebanon in search of that father he never knew, whose child he might not even be, knowing that the little that unites them are the memories that each may share with him…

Douaihy reflects upon the journey of Elia as a notebook that mixes police reports with traditional tales, intimate thoughts with the testimonies gathered from the neighborhood, the lessons of history with moral teachings. Yusuf knows how he died, how many bullet wounds he received and what their sizes were… In June Rain documents never talk about what interests us, they are not able to reach the heart of the matter. They show the lives of some martyrs, the smell of plums and warmth of the bakery where the bread was baked, the taste of goat cheese and a fancy to eat some fresh dates out of season.

There is no middle ground for Lebanon, between the heady, almost orientalist vision, and the country tattered by civil violence… Where the street was crossed with the cocked pistol and proudly displayed the family clan name. Years of sand and lead, spoken in Aramaic, French and Armenian. Years to let love be born in the middle of hatred, forgiveness in the middle of a grudge. Years that failed (not allowed) life, where the protagonist of the novel discovers, with resignation, how far everything has been erased. Annihilated. In comparison to the literature that emerged in the conflict, which appealed to a hasty writing as the perfect witness to the carnage of war and exile, Douaihy is surprising by his modernist approach. A collage of voices, fragments, fiction and testimony that draw the memory of that convulsed Lebanon. The memory of a mother and her son, a weak bond that unites when all is lost. The difficult burden that prevents them to continue with their lives. They return again and again to that incident they had hidden deep inside, about which there is no true or false, because too many years have passed and both sides have come to believe in anything if that can appease their conscience. Partly because June Rain is about the great gap that prevents finding peace, the gap that calls into question our way of remembering and accepting the past; that disappointment, and melancholy; that feeling of fire has not been extinguished. When returning home means going back to the origin, to the year of 1958 when it all ended, Elia and Kamle, realize they can not go home. They cannot even write about it, or try to beat this wound that eats them inside. This place is long gone, and memory is nothing but a sham to accept what died on a summer afternoon: A family. A future. A tragedy. The great void.