The next morning Peirene does not turn up for breakfast. Eventually I have to knock on the door of her hotel room. The taxi that will take us to Shatila is already waiting outside. Peirene opens the door with panic in her eyes. ‘I don’t know what to wear!’ She pulls me inside. ‘I’ve been up since five trying to make a decision of what would look best on the front cover of our book. Do you think these earrings go with this dress?’ She’s wearing a long, pink evening dress and is now holding up big sparkly earrings. For a moment I’m speechless. Clothes are strewn everywhere: across the floor and the bed. Some hang over the TV screen. She must have brought her entire wardrobe. I’m suddenly irritated. ‘Take off the silly dress, Peirene, and put on something comfortable. We are going to spend the next five days sitting in that small, hot room in the Shatila camp revising the stories with the writers. We are not attending a fashion show.’
Peirene turns her back, determined to ignore me. ‘You are clearly no help,’ she sighs, stepping into her high heals. ‘I saw Paul arrive with his cameras last night. Tell him, that I’m ready when he’s ready to shoot the front cover.’ Paul Romans is a photographer who has joined us on this trip to take pictures of Shatila for the book. I now roll my eyes. Oh, my silly Nymph. ‘Paul is waiting in the taxi with Suhir. The front cover won’t be of you, Peirene. It can’t be. It has to be an image of Shatila. But I promise you, he will take pictures of you and of us all working together. So, please change into something more appropriate and come with us.’
When she finally squeezes into the taxi, she’s wearing more sensible clothes and flat sandals. However, she hasn’t taken off her big sparkly earrings. ‘Arab women are so beautiful,’ she explains before I can say anything. ‘I need a bit of sparkle in order to stand a chance next to them and not to appear like a grey mouse in the photos.’ She takes another pair of sparkly earrings out of her bag. ‘And you, too, might want to put a pair on,’ she adds with a wicked glint in her eye.
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by Paul Romans, all rights reserved. Back row l-r: Safiya Badran, Writer / Hiba Maree, Writer / Suhir Helal, Editor / Safaa Algharbawi, Writer / Nibal Alalo, Writer / Meike Ziervogel, Publisher / Fatima Ghazzawi, Writer; Front row l-r: Omar Alndaf / Writer, Samih Mahmoud, Writer / Omar Ahmad, Writer.
This blog was originally published on 10 October 2017 as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher.