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Nazih Khater: The Republic of Enemies


“Beirut. Hamra Street. Slow, silent, steady footsteps. A slim shadow figure looming over the city. The man with the beret enters the café. He settles into his chair. With nobleness, elegance, dignity. His face is unruffled.  His smile is sweet and menacing. His gestures are confident. He looks around and doesn’t utter a word. As if he wanted to suspend anxiety. To surprise. They bring him his cup of coffee. With care. He pours the sweetener, stirs it with a suspicious quietness, takes out his brown sheets of paper, his felt-tip pen, uncompromising, free. He sculpts his carefully crafted words, meticulously. Who will be the next victim? Who will be crowned next? All of Beirut is awaiting his text. A terrorist, authoritarian, aggressive text. A scary text. Impartial. Critics are watching. They dare not write yet. The artist is waiting for the verdict. That night, he will not sleep.

People whisper around. They rage at his “poisoned pen”. What a “spiteful” man!!! “He trails along his resentment on Hamra’s sidewalks, as if he were walking his dog.” Such a frustrating character!!! How many times has he been attacked? On the street. At the café. In the theatre. At Nahar. How many times punched with a fist, hit with a chair or had a shoe thrown at him? However, the man with the beret likes bruises. Making enemies thrills him. He hates to see life in a linear fashion. He abhors neutrality, mediocrity, banality. He can’t stand sane people. He likes to provoke. He loves strained conflictual relationships. He likes to provoke the artistic work he’s criticizing. A distressing, complex, ambiguous, controversial, feared, respected character.”

بيروت، شارع الحمراء. خطًى بطيئة، خافتة، ثابتة. هامةٌ نحيلةٌ تحوم على المدينة. يدخل الرّجل المعتمر "البيريه" إلى المقهى، يجلس على كرسيّه، بنبلٍ وأناقةٍ ورصانة. هادئ القسمات، وديع الابتسامة، متوعّدٌ، واثقُ الحركات. ينظر من حوله من دون أن ينبس ببنت شفة،كأنّه يريد أن يعلّق حالة القلق، كأنّه يريد أن يباغت. يُحضرون له فنجان قهوته بعناية؛ يفرغ فيه ظرف "الكاندريل"، يحرِّك السّكّر بهدوءٍ مريب. يُخرج أوراقه السّمراء، وقلم الحبر الأسود، العنيد، الحرّ؛ ينحتُ كلماته، على قياس المعاني بالضّبط، ينحتها بدقّة، بإتقان. من ستكون الضّحيّة التّالية؟ من سيتربَّع على عرش قلمه؟ بيروت بأسرها تنتظر نصَّه؛ نصٌّ إرهابيّ، مستبدّ، شرس؛ نصٌّ مرعب، غير متحيّز. النّقّاد يترقبُّون، لا يجرأون بعد على الكتابة، والفنّان ينتظر أن يصدر الحكم. هذه اللّيلة، لن يغمضَ له جفن.