22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Yussef Bazzi

Portrait Yussef Bazzi
© Hartwig Klappert

Yussef Bazzi was born in 1966 in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Like many of his generation, his life was marked by the Lebanese Civil War, which broke out in April, 1975 and continued in differing constellations and with varying levels of intensity until 1990. As a teenager he joined one of the fighting militia groups. In 1986 he fled to Africa. He worked as a journalist in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, and today works for the culture section of the Lebanese daily paper »al-Mustaqbal«.

Yussef Bazzi has published four collections of poems. His first prose work »Nazara alaya Yassir Arafat wa-btasama« (2005, tr: Yassir Arafat Looked At Me And Smiled) offers a radically subjective look at the daily life of a young fighter in the Lebanese Civil War between 1981 and 1986. Stylistically terse and restrained, the text reads almost like a report. There are no descriptive passages that make the setting real to the reader, no background details on the war, its progress, origins, and the goals of the parties involved. Neither does the narrative make effective use of brutality and violence, which are instead treated in a sober manner. Existential questions are handled with an almost aggravating nonchalance. At first glance, this gives rise to a paradoxical union of pathos and the laconic. The text apparently strives neither to explain nor understand: the reader never learns – or if so, only by coincidence – who is fighting whom, where, when, and why. These stylistic techniques and the fact that the novel is written entirely in the first person in the present tense allows the text to convey a sense of the immediacy of combat to the reader. Disturbingly, the latter, like the protagonist, soon loses their grasp on events.

Yussef Bazzi lives in Beirut.

© international literature festival berlin