Charles Glass writes:
Shadid’s paternal great-grandfather, Isber Samara, built a villa in the south Lebanese hill village of Marjayoun during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Shadid visited the stone ruin one day at the end of Israel’s 2006 summer invasion to find that a partially exploded Israeli rocket had caused a fire on an upper floor. The house was mahjour – ‘abandoned, forsaken, lonely’. Shadid chose to make the house his bayt, a physical link to his ancestry and a legacy for his children. ‘A few hours after discovering the rocket,’ he wrote, ‘I returned and, with a borrowed shovel, started digging.’ He planted an olive tree in the garden and resolved, despite the fact that the house had been inherited by 104 relations including himself, to restore it and live in it. Neighbours warned him that his ambition was impossible, because it would consume all his money and energy, and futile, because his relatives could lay claim to most of it. A village friend admonished him with an Arabic proverb, ‘A sliver of land can wipe out its people.’ The restoration of the house proceeded nonetheless, mirroring Shadid’s reconstruction in House of Stone of the tragic modern history of the Levant.