Thinking about the paintings in the Lebanon family

By virtue of remembering this space that resonates with memories of her family’s past Hassan too becomes an itinerant painter and re-imagines a house in Lebanon inside the space of an Ontario home. In her role as a raconteur and participant in the re-creation of Boutros’ art, Hassan manages to rescue him from oblivion, from war and from tragedy. At the same time, she evokes a memory of her own biography, and reminisces the way in which her grandfather migrated back and forth from Lebanon to the Americas (in 1902 and 1920), and how, after having lost two women he loved, managed to rebuild his life in the midst of warfare and uncertainty. It is through these memories that denote hope and despair, distance and nearness, home and diaspora, that she becomes prepared to engage Boutros in conversation across the distance of time and space; for Hassan, like Bakhtin, also hears voices in everything and dialogical relations among them.

Thinking about the paintings in the Lebanon family home ignites the visual narrative and an historical awareness whose outcome is complicated by the virtual reality of the videotape showing the demolition and modernization of the house. The Boutros paintings, commissioned by Hassan’s grandfather, are briefly preserved in the video and then destroyed when the house is renovated in the 1990s, and its ceiling and walls are demolished. From this point on, we (the readers/spectators) are to be immersed in a space which is imaginary, real or both, depending on the particular chronotope or “congealed event” from which it is perceived.