Leave to Remain: A Memoir

Winner of the NSW Premier Literary Award-Community Relations Commission Award for 2010

Winner of the APA Best Designed Non-Fiction Book for 2010 (design by Jenny Grigg)

Leave to Remain: A Memoir

Leave to Remain: A Memoir

In Leave to Remain: A Memoir, Abbas El-Zein tells his story of growing up in civil-war Beirut, a city in the throes of self-destruction, yet obstinately clinging to its cosmopolitan past. El-Zein traces the genesis of a contemporary Middle Eastern identity – his own – under the influence of culture, religion, history and places far removed from where he grew up: Najaf and Baghdad, Paris, Palestine, London, Sydney and the American Far West. With him we travel through a Middle-Eastern life with an eye on the mundane and the everyday, as well as the cataclysmic events overshadowing them – from the adventures of an ancestor fleeing Ottoman armies during the Napoleonic wars to the trans-national world of Islamic scholarship in which his grandfathers lived, from the Israeli invasions of Lebanon to the Iraq war and the post-September 11 world of today. Leave to Remain is a story of a troubled homeland, of many departures and less-than-happy returns – an autobiographical reflection on today’s Arab world and its relationship with the West.

Praise for Leave to Remain:

“The best memoirs illuminate our intellectual blind spots. They leave us wiser and often less certain of our inalienable truths. So it is with Leave to Remain.”
Laurie Steed, Readings

“An important book … written in many tones – lyrical, sardonic, angry, heartbroken – but they are all in the key of Abbas El-Zein’s compassionate love for war-ravaged Beirut, the city of his birth, childhood and early manhood.”
Raymond Gaita, Philosopher and author of Romulus my Father

“El-Zein lyrically traverses cities [and] landscapes … with poignant accounts of the effects of war and displacement … Exquisitely realised in its narrative playfulness, this memoir captures the complexities of identity and politics, history and religion across time and space.”
Judges of the NSW Premier Literary Awards

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