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By examining the writings of Lebanese women she calls the Beirut Decentrists, Miriam Cooke challenges the notion that only men write about war. Although of differing political and religious beliefs, it is these Decentrists—women bound by common exclusion from both the literary canon and social discourse—whose vision will rebuild shattered Lebanon. The author traces the transformation in consciousness that took place among women who observed and recorded the progress toward chaos in Lebanon. During the so-called two-year war of 1975-6, little comment was made about those who left the cauldron of violence (usually men in search of economic security), but with time attitudes changed. Women became increasingly aware that they had stayed out of responsibility for others and that they had survived. This growing awareness served as a catalyst, and the Beirut Decentrists began describing a society that had gone beyond the masculinization normal in most wars and achieved an almost unprecedented feminization. Emigration, expected behavior for men before 1975, was rejected; staying, expected behavior for women before 1975, became the standard of Lebanese citizenship. The writings of the Beirut Decentrists offer a way out of anarchy. If men and women could espouse the Lebanese woman's sense of responsibility, the energy that fueled unrelenting savagery could be turned to reconstruction.
Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I. A Different Experience: 1. Danse macabre; 2. The need for a myth; 3. In a new voice; Part II. A Different Expression: 4. Women's voices in Arabic literature; 5. Responsibility; Part III. A New Consciousness: 6. Then I would like to resurrect; 7. Flight against time; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography; Index.