World War I was a catastrophe for Mount Lebanon. With war came famine, and with famine came indescribable suffering, starvation, and mass death. Over four years, the crisis reshaped society, transforming how people lived, how they interacted, and even how they saw the world around them. Famine Worlds peers out at the famine through their eyes, from the wealthy merchants and the dwindling middle classes, to those perishing in the streets.
Tylor Brand draws on memoirs, diaries, and correspondence to explore how people negotiated the famine and its traumas. Many observers depicted society in collapse—the starving poor became wretched victims and the well-fed became villains or heroes for the judgment of their peers. He shows how individual struggles had social consequences. The famine altered beliefs and behaviors, and those in turn influenced social relationships, policies, and even the historical memory of generations to come.
Famine Worlds is not just about what happened during the Great Famine, it shows how the crisis affected those who lived it. Its lessons could not be more timely. We often assume that if we were thrust into historic calamity that we would continue to behave compassionately. This book suggests otherwise. Brand shows that there are conseqeunces to living amidst omnipresent suffering and death. A crisis like the Great Famine is transformative in ways we cannot comprehend. It not only reshapes the lives and social worlds of those who suffer, it creates a particular rationality that touches the most fundamental parts of our being, even down to the ways we view and interact with each other.
Famine Worlds: Life at the Edge of Suffering in Lebanon's Great War
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