'Beirut 2020', the chronicle of a country in collapse

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Lebanese author Charif Majdalani has put aside fiction to write an account of the profound economic and social crisis of his country, so tragically illustrated by the deadly mega-blast in the port of Beirut in August, with the publication in France this autumn of a diary, Beyrouth 2020; journal d’un effondrement (Beirut 2020; the diary of a collapse). Lucie Delaporte reviews this moving and nostalgic reflection on the demise of Lebanon, once dubbed “the Switzerland of the Middle East”, which nevertheless sees a spark of hope amid the rubble.

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In October 2019, vast forest fires raged across Lebanon, from the mountainous, northernmost governate of Akkar, down to Chouf, south-east of the country’s capital Beirut, reducing to ashes forests which had grown since thousands of years. But the Canadair firefighting aircraft previously bought by the government were unable to fly because the money that was allocated to maintain the fleet had mysteriously evaporated, as is so often the fate of public funds in Lebanon.