Omar Sabbagh

The Beirut Cadenzas: Refractions From Damaged Life

After Bathsheba
for Haddy

If his neighbor was, of all things, an ice-skating judge, then perhaps Yusuf had the right to spend his spare hours reading outdated arguments – deployed in a manner distinctly after the wake and pyre of Plato – in the well-hung, or well-hanging, corpus of Saint Augustine.

When that Saint stole a peach for the sake of stealing a peach, not from need, not even from desire, he condemned himself to one of two things: either, rendering his character or disposition as determinately evil, or, with some uncanny second sight, providing the spur and ground for one of the earlier chapters in the rhapsody, and half-baked redemption, that was or would be his Confessions.

Atonement was possible only if one was once individual-enough to be a dizzy rascal, to be one and only, and solely one.


Omar Sabbagh

Published: 2004, Transit Beirut, Saqi,ed. Roseanne Khalaf

10 January. A piece like a segment has been cut out of the back of his head. The sun looks in and the whole world with it. It makes him nervous, it distracts him from his work, and moreover it irritates him that he should be the very one excluded from the spectacle.
Franz Kafka, He, Aphorisms from the 1920 Diary

If you happen to be one of the privileged inhabitants of Beirut city you might find yourself strolling through the quietly beautiful grounds of the American University of an afternoon. You might, in fact, be one of the students of this university, or perhaps one of the alumni, many of whom can be seen, with the first hints of dusk, indulging themselves in this way. Or you may be a complete outsider who, by some fortunate coincidence, has both fallen in love with these prolific vistas, and is regularly mistaken for a member of staff.

Omar Sabbagh

From Bourbon To Scotch

Extracts From A Dubai Diary 

When I think back to those days, in the desert, when I first turned adult − working my workaday from nine to six – so many brimming personae leap from the page of my recollecting mind. They were men and women I encountered in the quotidian buzz of daily life and daily work, as well as transfigured icons and indices of what now seems an inevitable tipping point in my life. You see, until that time I’d never had the ratification of that bold sea-striding in the public arena, which is to say on display, as gruel, as vivid artefact of basic graft; the kind that finds a safely recognizable quid pro quo.

Omar Sabbagh

The Germanian: An Allegory From The Desert

For Ziad and Reina

'La bêtise n’est pas mon fort.'
Paul Valéry

Bulky, corpulent, a paunch too big and unseemly for the erstwhile haunches, The Germanian, Superintendent at that university in the desert of all things mortal (the custodians), was making his rounds.  His trusty legion of worker-ants hailed from all corners of the spinning earth – but there were none from anywhere in Asia.  He was known as The Germanian, not only because he was of German extraction, but also because he was considered, and considered himself, quite the musty metaphysician.  Indeed, a deep-bowelled and grumbling recitative he’d often hum (or mumble) to himself while on his rounds, checking all was shipshape and in smooth running order, went as follows:

I think that he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think that he thinks that I think that he…

Omar Sabbagh


‘Should I dye my hair this weekend?’

The woman who asked this, whisper-thin in body, had hair the color of cinnamon, though closer to sparkling raven at times.

‘Well… hmmm… it’s not as bright or juicy as I’ve seen it…’  The woman who responded was no such wraith; she was voluble in body, and bone-deep with goodness because her father had been a baker, and she had grown up, nay, she had leavened with the smell of bready genesis and flour in her nostrils from the early hours.

Omar Sabbagh

New Writing

The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing

For Bassel and Karim

In Thagaste where I was born, under the hot panoramas of the African sun, light splayed, danced and redounded everywhere. No weed-bothered nook or stony cranny might hide from that high citrus-coloured brilliance. And for children like me, it felt like we were smiled upon – or taken up and hugged by the warm fleshy rictus of such. Though my mother took great delight in flowers, flowers didn’t interest me. I took to high craggy mountains, the sleek allure of precipices, or the loaded notions of such; and especially the way they put into relief the pursuant valleys, or, equally, the undulant phantasms of such. You might say that what thrilled me most was a kind of sublimity married to fear, fear and temptation. For I was loved enough at home; perhaps too much…

A Superior Man

For Dr. George Resek

Published in May, 2016 in The Punch Magazine

A Superior Man
For Dr. George Resek

He spoke, always, with a broad, wet and warming lilt – his voice like a gentle cavern: widening, opening. It took me many years to understand how that high-pitched, wide and ingratiating tone came to be acquired and inhabited. For many years, I’d assumed it was due to the meds he took, meds which, as far as I knew, contained a burly quotient of estrogen. But in truth, and after the weather of much experience, it became clear that that implied attitude of a touch-too-much breeding, with its soft rasping hint of condescension, was the frail and fallow fruit of long-borne, abyssal suffering. The implied, highly-effeminate ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ which seemed to cave-inwards when he spoke to you, as though there was nothing you might say which he hadn’t foreseen in the nerve and marrow, had become the utmost tick of his temperament. It was as though he had clutched the birthing Naught of being.

There were many symptoms along the way of course – before he came to be: freed and lifted by ground zero. The time for instance he started a panicky rant, tossing and shaking his head as though to loose deep-bowelled demons, and then jumped out of the car, leaving his driver in the lurch, mystified, terrified. Or then: how his face might burn of a sudden in plum-mauve when nothing apposite was being spoken nearby – again, as if the galling djinns speaking his mind were staging an attack invisible to the eyes of the staple, turning world. Unmanned for so long in the very quick of him-self – perhaps the one truly accomplished action he performed in his life found and founded itself: at the moment of his mortality.