Autumn 2003

Shift! goes to Lebanon

Shift! Greetings from Beirut

€20 from www.shift.de

If you are planning a visit to Beirut, this book’s various mappings will help explain many things. It is a chaotic mix, and much like the city. Yet in the friction caused by jockeying and jostling there is a lot of warmth. ‘Safety on Land’, the opening chapter, articulates this nicely, documenting, in the manner of an airline safety card, a wide span of experiences: from the times at restaurants when you might fill up on starters, only to be shocked when the main course arrives; to a guide to survival and the city's complex transportation etiquette.

The article on the Lebanese use of language shows the daily collision of spoken word: languages weave in and out of each other with the dexterity of the morning traffic. Though the Lebanese once campaigned for their own separate language, it is hard to imagine why, since one of the many charms of the people is that they (nearly all) speak at least three languages: Arabic, French, English, and often numerous others, too.

The issues around the civil war and religion are complex, and several articles use personal stories to shed light on them. This approach sums up the strength of this edition of Shift!: it is like a recording of a day and night out in Beirut, including conversations with diverse inhabitants about the chaotic building programme, finding a husband and the tragedy of car crashes, all interpreted through a wildly illustrative translator.

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