The private library of the renowned Syrian playwright and public intellectual Saadallah Wannous (1941-1997) arrived at the American University of Beirut in 2015, four years into the 2011 Syrian revolution/war.
Drawing on Benjamin’s “Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting,” this article traces the books in Wannous’ life. It explores the social conditions in which his library operated and from which Wannous set out to imagine world literature and theater in Arabic. A study of selected book dedications offers insight into Wannous’ intellectual network as he gained recognition in the literary field. The article argues that Wannous’ private library opened a marginal but safe space for creative output and political dissidence in Syria, and more precisely in private rooms, a fantastical counter-site to the Baʿth party and the al-Asad regime which controlled the political and cultural fields. In Beirut, it continues to make room for humanistic inquiry, albeit in exile.
22.05.2018 | 18:00 s.t. - 20:00