Amin Maalouf: Origins

This is not merely a family chronicle but a highly engaging memoir that reads like a novel. It is essential reading for those who wish to look into Levantine life and history more intimately, and learn life lessons from them regardless of nationality.

I will abridge my words to highlight the following passages:

On War
Barely a hundred years ago, Lebanese Christians readily proclaimed themselves Syrian, Syrians looked to Mecca for a king, Jews in the Holy Land called themselves Palestinian… none of the present-day Middle Eastern states existed, and even the term “Middle East” hadn’t been invented. The commonly used term was “Asian Turkey.” Since then, scores of people have died for allegedly eternal homelands, and many more will die tomorrow.

War is aggression and pillage; it is destruction and carnage. But it is a crime for which we forgive kings, whereas we make children pay for it.

On Origins
…there is no need for us to know about our origins. Nor is there any need for our grand children to know anything about our lives. We each live through the years assigned to us and then go to our eternal sleep in the grave. Why bother to think about those who came before us, for they mean nothing to us? Why bother to think about those who will come after us, for we shall mean nothing to them?

But if everything is destined to sink into oblivion, why do we build anything, and why did our ancestors build anything? Why do we write anything, and why did they write anything? Why even bother to plant trees or have children? Why do we bother to fight for a cause, or speak of progress, change, humanity, and the future? By living exclusively for the present, we let ourselves be hemmed in by an ocean of death. Conversely, by reviving the past, we enlarge our living space.

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