On high walls and street corners in the city, you can find clocks and signs counting the days since Hariri was killed. People are still waiting for the truth about the perpetrators to emerge. His face, huge and well-fed like a satisfied walrus, stares at us from countless posters. Somehow, this face and those of other victims like the journalists Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir, mingle with those of the smiling politicians from the last elections - and, in the shia neighborhoods, of the martyrs who fell in the war against Israel. Spooky, all these lifeless faces gazing out over the streets.
Tony Chakar describes Beirut as a city living in fear for the return of the dead. 'Just compare, for example,' he tells me, 'ten buildings from the architectural boom of the sixties to ten recent buildings. There is at least 30% less glass in them. People don't want to live in unsafe houses anymore. So the war still exists in the buildings of now and tomorrow. It isn't over yet. People are still insecure of what exactly happened. The war has not been made into a shared history. Deep inside people fear that the horror will return. It's a catastrophe: an innocence has been lost, the darkness lies in waiting, only to come back one day. The survivors live in an eternal fear of the dead.'
In one of his texts, Convulsive Fables, he describes a hardly imaginary city in which the inhabitants stick photographs of their dead family members on the walls. When one troubled man starts removing these pictures and painting the walls white, stricter measures are taken: 'The inhabitants took the following decision: They would no longer hang photographs of their dead on the city walls. They could not risk some other inhabitant going mad and risk a repetition of the same sequence of actions. But what is to be done? They couldn't separate themselves from their dead, who gave them such a strong will to live, to remember. One of their holy men found a solution: The photographs, he said with that stupid, authoritarian, loud voice that religious men often have, should be suspended in the air. In addition, the photographs should not remain as they were, ordinary black and white photos of dubious quality. No, an individual
coloured portrait of each dead person had to be drawn separately. From that moment on, innumerable portraits of dead people hovered in the air above the city, over the heads of the inhabitants - an almost absurd an intolerable situation: One cannot have a dialogue with something so far above one's head.'
Standing on Martyr's Square, in front of the An-Nahar building, home to one of the two main daily newspaper in Lebanon, it feels uncanny to look at the giant portrait of journalist and editor Gebran Tueni hanging above the entrance. The enshrining of the dead, the insistence in calling them martyrs, their glorification - it looks like Tony Chakar is right when he suggests that Beirut lives in the permanent fear for the return of the dead and the horror that produced them.