The Paper Camera
Author: Youmna Chlala
Publisher: Litmus Press (2019)
"Beauty is back, rejoice!" So ends The Paper Camera, Youmna Chlala's flickering catalog of Beirut and other cities, where loss and longing are interspersed with vignettes of intimacy: family members make salad and go swimming; lovers observe each other with a languorous curiosity; childhood objects resurface. Charting the absence between unrecoverable points of origin and migrating bodies, The Paper Camera is a multilingual, hybrid text that explores how the boundaries of a city map themselves onto language and memory, while poetry proposes a new cartography. "First, we had to learn each other's languages. / This was the longest, most loving trial. / Then we undid our own."
"This is a remarquable 'camera' work where the film keeps moving along people who're running from city to city, continent to continent, direct by 'a young girl (who) sticks her tongue out of a gun.' Covering, and uncovering Lebanon, she extracts a remarkable poetry from a continuously exploding war."
"Youmna Chlala shows us that a book taking place in one location—be that a language, a city, between a certain set of pages—is always also unfolding some place else (in another language, a different city, in a photograph rather than a book), and it's this double-occurring of sight and reach and render that most closely approximates what we have inherited and what we have passed on in this life of violence and remembering. The Paper Camera is a conductive force, flaring and deeply moving."