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A dystopian story about a strong young woman in a changing world

The Towers of Beirut

Paul Verrept

Fifteen-year-old Nabila has had enough of the monotonous life in her village. Egged on by the spirit in her head – her djinn – she travels to Beirut as a stowaway in her uncle’s taxi. The djinn is not a demon, but he challenges her and also helps her through the toughest of times. As a street child, Nabila tries to survive in the city. Zahirah, a refugee, becomes her best friend and her first big love.

Nabila and Zahirah experience moments of happiness, but in Beirut too catastrophe is brewing. Fences appear and form barriers, ground is shifting, buildings vanish and weapons appear on the scene. The towers rise up from the ground: immense buildings that cast long, deep black shadows over the city – a metaphor for the invisible powers that compete with one another. They turn Beirut into a battlefield.

A richly layered coming-of-age story with glorious images that stay with you

Verrept sketches the hopelessness of life on the street in a city torn by both war and the widening gap between rich and poor. The greyish images with powerful charcoal lines and sombre colouring accentuate the dark threats to the city: the windowless towers are massive, the rows of polluting cars endless. Man is absent, except in the pictures before and after the actual story, with the black shape of a girl in the wind.

Verrept needs just a few words to evoke the drama of far-reaching events.
Alienating yet relatable****
De Standaard