Lebanon is ‘a nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown’

Sharro now lives in London.

Karl Sharro is an architect and writer who blogs about politics, the Middle East and architecture at Karl reMarks. He gained fans for his satirical send-ups of writers and cultural figures. Originally from Zahle, he now lives in London with his wife and two daughters.

Q: Describe a typical day.

A: I always start with a strong cup of coffee in the morning and do some reading. On working days, I’m juggling between my job as an architect and my writing. I do all my writing during my lunch break and in the evenings, so I’m always under pressure, but I love the pace and intensity. Being an architect is a great job, except for the long meetings. I am convinced we don’t need meetings, it’s just something men (specifically) like to do to feel important.

Q: Who was the last person you spoke to?

A: A BBC producer. We’re preparing a program about the new Islamic Galleries at the Louvre Museum in Paris. We were going over our ideas for the program, and how we would deal with the collection and the design.

Q: Describe Lebanon in five words.

A: A nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown – I obviously have to haggle about the five words.

Q: If you could change one thing about Lebanon, what would it be?

A: The national anthem. It’s too serious for a nation that likes to have a good time. Replace it with something more Mediterranean and dancey.

Q: What’s your earliest memory?

A: I probably have earlier memories, but buying my favorite comic book during New Year’s week in 1980 is the sharpest in my mind. It was a special issue and had “1980” in large print on the cover, I couldn’t wait to get back home and start reading. There was this sense of expectation about the ’80s, that it was going to be a great new decade. Little did we know that we had another 10 years of the war to go through. But the music was great.

Q: What advice would you give your younger self?

A: Look after yourself. I now have to repair that damage that you did. And go out more.

Q: What is the most valuable thing your parents or grandparents taught you?

A: To be curious, expand my knowledge, be critical. Both my mother and father taught me that. They instilled in me an insatiable thirst for knowledge and reading. If I asked something they didn’t know the answer to, my mother would help me look it up in the encyclopedia. I think it was one of the most valuable things we had.

Q: What’s the best item of clothing you’ve ever owned?

A: A bespoke hand-made leather jacket that I got in Baghdad in 2000. Took three fitting sessions. I wore it only three times before I lost it. Which is probably a good thing because I looked like an extra from The Matrix in it.

Q: Do you read your star sign?

A: Never. People in Lebanon take star signs seriously – I see it as an indication of lingering fatalism.

Q: What’s your favorite word?

A: Sesquipedalian. I like to use long and obscure words.

Q: What’s the scariest thing that you’ve ever done?

A: Walking along a cliff edge in Faqra – it couldn’t have been more than 5 centimeters wide. I crossed from one side to the other while holding onto the rock face, while wearing the wrong shoes. The cliff was hundreds of meters high. Afterward, I looked down and only then it hit me how dangerous it was.

Q: Which historical figure would you choose to go for coffee with?

A: Karl Marx definitely. Not only was he exceptional at understanding and explaining how the world worked, but he was also an entertaining companion. At one point in his youth he was president of the Trier Tavern Club drinking society. So it would have to be a beer not a coffee probably.

Q: What’s your party trick?

A: I can do a sketch of Pablo Picasso’s Don Quixote very quickly and accurately on a napkin. But for some reason, I always draw it with the characters facing the opposite way.

Q: What do you look forward to?

A: Freedom and dignity for the people of the Middle East. I know how that sounds, I will go change for the swimwear parade now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 03, 2012, on page 3.




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