Lebanon was my birthplace, and my mother’s home country; a place I see through her eyes. We left during the war, before I truly knew it, but a part of Lebanon will always remain with me. I spent my childhood in Nigeria, surrounded by nature and freedom. Nigeria is where I feel at home. In the USA I was an engineer, and thought I had it all. Then there’s France, where I studied and where my childhood ended: the country I fell in love with.
Forays into literature
“It takes courage to start reading a book. Once you turn that first page...everything happens in its due course,” my French teacher once told me. At the time I listened, but only later did I understand. I discovered the secret joy of reading ten years later; I was already a grown man, but I was incomplete. It became an addiction, then a religion. My bookshelves are a sacred space, and every volume on them is irreplaceable.
The lure of history
My first trip to London was a whistle-stop tour: I went there and back in a day to buy a set of the complete works of Winston Churchill, being sold at a memorial event. There were forty volumes, and I burned through them in a few months. It was the beginning of an infatuation, and ever since then I’ve continued to explore the great lives and events of modern history, wondering at times if my thirst can ever be quenched.
Alfred Doblin Berlin Alexanderplatz
Ernest Hemingway The Old Man and the Sea
Israel Joshua Singer The Family Carnovsky
William Styron Sophie’s Choice
Charles Dickens Great Expectations
Stefan Zweig Beware of Pity
Albert Camus Reflections on Capital Punishment
Albert Cohen Book of my Mother
Emile Zola The Belly of Paris