House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
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In the summer of 2006, racing through Lebanon to report on the Israeli invasion, Anthony Shadid found himself in his family’s ancestral hometown of Marjayoun. There, he discovered his great-grandfather’s once magnificent estate in near ruins, devastated by war. One year later, Shadid returned to Marjayoun, not to chronicle the violence, but to rebuild in its wake.
So begins the story of a battle-scarred home and a journalist’s wounded spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this bittersweet and resonant memoir, Shadid creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the house’s renewal alongside the history of his family’s flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America around the turn of the twentieth century. In the process, he memorializes a lost world and provides profound insights into a shifting Middle East. This paperback edition includes an afterword by the journalist Nada Bakri, Anthony Shadid’s wife, reflecting on his legacy.
“A poignant dedication to family, to home, and to history . . . Breathtaking.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Entertaining, informative, and deeply moving . . . House of Stone will stand a long time, for those fortunate enough to read it.” — Telegraph (London)
night. Epidemics of typhus and malaria preyed on the weak. Locusts attacked a countryside beset by plague. The dead were found in gutters, in clothes that barely concealed paper-like skin. Stories of insanity were routine. The French declared Lebanon itself in 1920, fitting within its newly decreed frontiers eighteen religious sects—among them Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Greek Orthodox and Maronite Catholics, Druze, Armenians, and a handful of Jews. None agreed, or ever would, on what the country
asked. “No,” he added almost immediately. “It’s still too early.” The next day, I went to see Dr. Khairalla at his house. Ivanka answered the door. He was still in bed, she told me, and couldn’t come down. She suggested I go up; his was the last bedroom on the left. When I saw him, I tried to take in how much he had deteriorated in the two weeks since I had last visited. He was lying in a white wooden bed, swallowed by the blue plaid sheets and white comforter. His face was wan, even sallow. As
his subjects waited, deliberating over their leader’s message. At last they hit upon what they believed it was: The bird with wings can travel as far away as it wants. So they did. They went to the place that became Marjayoun. Before the arrival of Abu Jean, I had spent many hours in Marjayoun wandering about, reacquainting myself, discovering, absorbing beauties, documenting what was no more. The sights became familiar—thorny rose bushes swirling and madly unkempt, red tiles fallen and
After a stint as a professor, he became an adviser of fortune—to Tunisia’s president, then to Prince Hassan of Jordan. Well past retirement age, he undertook, of all things, a campaign to help restore the Albanian monarchy, claimed by King Leka I, in a referendum in 1997. (He was unsuccessful, and the restoration was rejected.) By the time I met him, his official career was coming to an end. These days he spent weeks at a time, sometimes longer, in Marjayoun, at his ancestral home, with its blue
noticing imperfections everywhere, beautiful imperfections. The wall was built of row after row of stone, eleven high. It was barricade, foundation, backdrop, and entrance. Monumental in stature, they sprawled, unmovable, a part of the house that could not be changed and could not lose its identity. That wall, I suspected, could never be destroyed. Nor could the pointed arches before it, side by side, like Atlas’s shoulders. A truly Levantine innovation, the pointed arch’s origins go back to