Christian Lebanon After World War 1/ Dr Dennis Walker‏

The French Language in Lebanon
                                   by Dr Dennis Walker, CRS Monash University [email:]
                           I have just spent two months in Lebanon, mainly in the Jabal (Mountain) area with the kind hospitality of the Maronite monastries of Ghusta and Kafifan, researching plural cultures and movements among the Maronites up until
1925.  It is a rich intellectual and literary heritage still understood only in simplified ways in the West and its academia. 
                           Following World War I, the Maronites were divided.  After the trauma and famine during that conflict, most Maronites were in no shape
to think or agitate about politics, Yet a surprising number did.  This sharp interest in politics has always been a central aspect of the Maronite Lebanese. 
                           The brutal choice was whether (a) to take a risk of standing with King Faysal and the Arab nationalists in Damascus --- the issue was whether they could trust Arfab Muslims after 1860 and the World War I famine --- OR (b) opt for a mandate under the bled and exhausted French whose language quite a few Maronites had learned but with concealed opponents among them..
                           I have left Lebanon with a folio of issues of the magazine _La Revue Phoeniciene_ published  by a circle of Lebanese nationalists after World War I who had chosen France.  I found it relaxing reading.  The French style was clear with articles on French literature that took in even writers in medieval French such as Villon.  Some of these Lebanese had learned a range of aspects of the people who produced that language: it was an acquired language for Lebanese Christians but some of them were not just in iFrench language for what they could get out of it in commerce or politics --- the money and jobs.
                          _La Revue Phoeniciene_ published  quite a quantity of poetry in French.  It was a particularist-nationalist poetry that detailed the national scenery and vegetation of the Lebanese Homeland.  There was some real lyricism about it.  _La Revue Phoeniciene_ published articles assessing the economic and trading resources and prospects of Lebanon, hoping that Mandatory France could oversee and guide the capacity of the Lebanese to develop their country and achieve Progress.
                          The attitudes of French officials by the mid-1920s had lost them any support from most Lebanese including Maronite Patriarch Ilyas Butrus al-Huwayyik who had supported a take-over by them to the Western powers at the Versailles Peace Conference.  Yet France provided a Constitution and carved out communications that enabled the Lebanese to advance to independence as a relatively modern polity.  It was a stated marred by structural sectarianism which most Lebanese had preferred, and the French only ratified.  Overall, the French deserve some credit for providing some of the means that Lebanon needed to advance into modernity.



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