Layal did her magic, and an excerpt of The Perfumed Garden is now part of an amazing Audio Show line-up she prepares weekly for The Outpost.
Listen to it here (Right-click, Save as)
The Perfumed Garden is very dear to me. It's a chapter of Khan elThawra, a book project I have been toying with for almost a year now. It's an experiment in producing a narrative piece that is liable to a constructed universe, as opposed to it being a narrative fiction.
Briefly, the book is about a Khan in Tripoli. Khans are sectors in the old city, each specializing in the commerce of a certain product. Examples of existing Khans are Khan elSaboun (for the trade of soap), Khan elDahab (for the trade of gold) and Khan elKheyyateen (for the trade of textiles). The story proposes the existence of Khan elThawra, for the trade of the revolution. The story is carried out by a group of accidental friends living in Beirut that decide to kill their city and escape up North to be part of Khan
elThawra, a myth in a story told to one of them by his grandmother.
The book deals with the commerce of –isms, ideals, morals and the constant state of performative revolution
acted out by the youth of the region in a grotesque, satirical manner. The book will not be written initially in text form; I intend to layout the narrative through an extensive series of visual representations, performances and audio recordings. The story, then, will be written off these materializations of the narrative. Ideally, I will be producing material such as maquettes, paintings, photographs, film, audio recordings of dialogue and context as a first draft. The literary work will be a documentation of the story being unraveled tangibly in phases.
The project has been on hold for various reasons. Until this one night, dancing in Sporting, that it made sense. I have been working with Ibrahim, Layal and a number of our friends in the region on the creation of an imagined Arab city. A single entity that would outperform its constituents, apart. A city with one road leading from Beirut to Jerusalem. We were Khan elThawra. And the first issue of The Outpost would be part of that constructed universe.
The Perfumed Garden was born harvesting characters, stories and settings from The Outpost. It told stories of people in places, sandwiched between a before and an after in the making.
Excerpts and experiments
When one thinks of prospective prophets, if that would make sense, Oum Kolthoum is more or less the essential mother of that character. As others might fancy costumes and aesthetic modules of play, most of my fantasies started with matching Oum Kolthoum with the father or mother of my potentially acceptable prophet. Nizar and Oum Kolthoum could have had a baby, and the world we live in would have been a better place. I say better with full conviction and awareness of the subjectivity of the matter, as it would not be better for current organized religions, current loci of power, and current traces of authority, none of which would lasted with such intensity to our present day, if Nizar and Oum Kolthoum had a baby.
She asked me where I was from. I had forgotten. I asked her where she was from. She told me I could decide. She told me I was a romantic. I told her there was no such thing. She raised her head and kissed me. We sat there for about an hour, mostly silent. She stood up, her dripping back towards me, colonized by a tattoo of the gridded windows of the abandoned Holiday Inn hotel in Beirut. She walked out of the tub into the bedroom. I followed.
I walked out to the balcony. She followed. Every time I look at this city, it changes. Eleanor stands in front of me, facing the city, her back towards me, holds the railing and fixates my hands on hers. She raises her back
a bit, her ass pressing on my cock. Incidentally, I have been trying to go into Holiday Inn for five years now. I grab her by the hand, lay her on the bed, her hands on the headstand, facing down, Holiday Inn in the air. She refuses to moan to my subversive promenades in her not-so-abandoned hotel, Eleanor, my sweetheart, her sweaty hands cramping, my grandmother’s silver pendant pivoting from her neck banging on her heart and the headstand, on her heart and the headstand, agitated clockwork timing a sterile fuck. She cums. I’m done. She sleeps on the sofa. I sleep on the bed. She wakes me up at dusk. She opens her closet and hands me a fresh pair of briefs, shorts a t-shirt and a light pink linen vest.
Put on that dress, your black dress that shows your verse tattoos. Words of god to that muted diva. Words with delicious phonetics to that delirious nation. The light at the end of the tunnel turned off. Flashforwards of adventures behind bars. Tribunal erotica. Jingle bells of churches, arias to mosque accapellas. National orgasm, as we smile on electric chairs, as we smile and necklaces of rope, as we smile in asylums, as we smile in refugee camps, as we smile to each other, as everyone else, most conveniently, cries.
Each and every one of them played an instrument. Each of their parents, like most Lebanese parents of the time, insisted their children played something. It was not a social fiesta, salon extravaganza, but more of a necessity. Why? The war. One can blame anything on the war in Lebanon – electric outages, botox, pollution, unemployment, noisy neighbors, March, homosexuality, the flu and of course, the parental desire of musical offspring. Marcel played the oud. Iman played the violin. Omar played the piano. Thurayya played the harp. Ahmad wanted to play the drums. The sax was more soothing, his mother argued. Ahmad played the sax.
Each and every prepubescent one of them played for their nicotine exhausting parents as households
anticipated the worst. As households bought more bread than households could handle. As households lost the war.