Novice authors in a Lebanon refugee camp have collaborated on a novella. It is a literary achievement as well as an act of witness
Many art forms are produced collaboratively, but we persist in the idea that literature must be the work of a single consciousness. Shatila Stories, a novella shaped from nine pieces of fiction created following a writing workshop, proves that wrong. Not only does it cohere, but its strength lies in its multiplicity of viewpoints and voices, which, instead of being a clever postmodern trick, lend depth, texture and most of all, authenticity – essential given that this is a story set in Shatila, a teeming refugee camp in Beirut.
“Don’t talk about the camp unless you know it,” commands a scrawl of graffiti depicted in a photograph at the start. Its nine writers, some of whom fled the war in Syria, some of whom were born in the camp, know it intimately, and the result is a startlingly unusual book, one that has the potential to open minds and change perceptions.