Rewa Zeinati presented her first book, 'Nietzsche’s Camel Must Die', as part of the xanadu* Poetry Slam at Hay Festival Beirut 2013

Rewa Zeinati: Nietzsche’s Camel Must Die

May 6th, 2013

Anything can happen. From this moment till the moment I board the plane heading from Dubai to Beirut, anything can happen. When I say anything I mean a war may begin, an airport may close, an earthquake may startle. With each passing day, two out of these three possibilities are more probable than the third.

Yet my ticket is ready, my small bag packed. Well, not really. But at least I’m somehow prepared to go into the mysterious but glowing darkness that makes Lebanon what it is. Then again, ‘prepared’ is probably not the best term to use either.

And as I panic inwardly I am soothed by the voices of friends and fellow writers who live in Beirut, who are just as excited over the Beirut Hay Festival, who are part of the Hay, who never mention the possible insanity that might break out any minute. That already has, in some areas of the country. The unwavering angst and sorrow of tormented neighboring regions quickly oozing in.

This is how we drift through it all. The alternative is that we allow the fear of what’s around the corner to paralyze us out of our wits and away from our plans. But really, what can be done about the corner and what’s possibly, immediately, around it?

So with the fear of the unexpected lightly upon our shoulders, we grab whatever stands in our way and run with it, skipping over minefields and catastrophes. We become professional skippers that way. Expert dancers.

Two days from now I’ll be heading to Beirut to participate in the Hay Festival for the launch of my first book entitled, Nietzsche’s Camel Must Die: An invitation to Say ‘No.’

May 8th, 2013

I’ve forgotten Lebanon’s trees in May. Forgotten the flowers the color of lavender, hanging from high branches, saluting slow drivers and hurried strollers along Hamra Street. Jacaranda? Forgotten that supernatural hue. And the streets of Beirut tainted with oleander flowers, like crushed cherries on asphalt. Blown away by the wind. Forgotten the fruits of the season. White mulberries, akeh deneh, janerik. It’s been eleven years since I’ve been to Beirut in spring.

May 11th, 2013

Women with opinions. Nothing can be more frightening or more crucial. Divorced women, single women, women with grown up children, women who’ve written books, in Arabic, in French, in English. Women who listen, who read. Read, read, read.

Women from Algeria, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, France. Women who speak five languages. At times in the same sentence. Women with sexual liberation carved on their tongues. On their bodies. In their walk. Finally.

Women with far too much Botox shot into their foreheads, their lips, who don’t give a crap if you’re judging, who don’t give a crap if you’re not. Women with bored eyes, in hotel lobbies, waiting for the bus. Women with feeble handshakes. Women with earnest faces. Women you wish you’d never met. Women who go out of their way for a book, a conversation, an embrace. To offer advice. Women you wish you’d met a long time ago. Women with voice and love and histories and mothers. Hanan Al Shaykh wrote a whole book about it. Her mother’s story. But that wasn’t the book she was sharing for the Hay. And I arrived too late for her reading at the Hay.

Women who’ve influenced. Who have no idea how much they’ve influenced. Their presence in the room, their bodies absent.

And a few good men. Many men. Wonderful poets, journalists, cartoonists. But I am drawn to the women. Writers. Speakers.

The three-day Beirut Hay Festival is over.

May 12th, 2013

Gardenia flowers everywhere. Sewn into necklaces made of fine thread. Floating on thin water in small dishes, upon tables in homes and cafes. Flower necklaces around women’s necks, against their chests, wrapped around rearview mirrors. Stuffed inside bras. A row of necklaces dangling on a wooden stick held up by a child’s hand. A beggar child. Homeless. Selling fragrance among the traffic. I am back in Dubai now. Here, neither child nor fragrance.

May 13th, 2013

Of course. I mean how else do you topple a dictatorship? First you murder your opponent. Then, you slice open his chest, take out his heart and bite right into it. You make sure you’re looking straight at the camera while you do this. Bite right into the heart with your rotten teeth. Then immediately shout, “God is Great!”

God is Great? How great? Like great great? Or just great? I mean I need to know. How else do you topple a dictatorship? Rotten, rotten teeth and all.


My book launch took place during the closing night of the Hay Festival: a typically feisty Poeticians/xanadu* evening. An occasion for which I’ve looked forward, for months. My first book Nietzsche’s Camel Must Die is based on my Facebook Notes and poems written over a period of over one hundred days. Based on observations and memories. Akin to what you’ve read above. Not as recent, of course.

And if you’ve reached this far into this blog post without feeling like you’ve been robbed of the few minutes it may have taken you to reach this point, then you’ll probably be interested in the type of book that it is. What type of book is it?

I’m not sure.

Genre? A journal type thing, a pseudo-memoir, only less private, instantly public. No secrets here. No hidden pages inside locked drawers.

Merely a humble, naked offering. Of some sort.