Lit & Found: ‘The Wondrous World of Omar El-Zeenni’

Rusted Radishes had us at “eccentric Beiruti poet of the 1920s.” But El-Zeenni — writes Rana Tannoury-Karam, in an essay for RR‘s latest issue — also examined class dynamics, the French mandate, colonialism, and the world’s general madness.

The essay includes translations of excerpts of El-Zeeni’s poetry by Fatima Kassem Moussa, including:

What a loss, oh Beirut

Oh deceptive appearances

Oh bride in the tiny grave

Or showcased in a coffin

What a loss, oh Beirut!

Tannoury-Karam writes that, “Through his satirical monologues, el-Zeenni created a space where what was lost could be lamented. His monologues not only allowed social and political issues to be raised on a popular and wide scope, but also to be dissected, and most importantly, ridiculed.” Yet, she adds: “el-Zeenni could not confront the contradictions that shaped him and possibly made him who he was.”

Find the essay and poetry at Rusted Radishes.

The work appears in the magazine’s tenth issue, “Money,” and editors tell us that the works in this issue “come together to tell a tale of central banks, the endless greed of capitalist vampires, gluttonous desire, markets, dreams and the subconscious, the paper-thin security of home, the imaginary of wealth, the futility of one’s labor, the imagining of a future that does not resemble the present, and one that couldn’t possibly repeat the past though sometimes does.”

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