To the Series of the Lebanese Memory, Zougheib has added yet another referential book that was the fruit of lengthy conversations he held with the late poet Said Akl over fifty hours. Zougheib harnessed this opportunity to sneak into the intimate space of his friend and quench his thirst and curiosity for his boundless wisdom, inspiring the name of his biography from a book for Said Akl, If Lebanon were to Speak. Zoughaib’s book was issued first in 2010 and a third edition in 2013.
The chapters of the book are tinged with highlights on Akl’s childhood in the Beqa’a city of Zahle, his gradation in the realm of literature and his arrival in Beirut where he revolutionized the prevailing literary scene and crafted a new roadmap for poetry. Akl was generous like his father and from his mother he inherited an immense love for beauty and culture. He loved mathematics and wanted to become an engineer but coincidence shuffled him from science to literature. Having read the world’s greatest classics, which he stumbled upon in the library of a French officer, he invaded the realm of literature unfazed.
The author touches on Akl’s heightened religious awareness since his tender age. Having realized the presence of God in everything and everywhere, Akl grew up cognizant of the importance of the Bible and the Quran and viewed faith and theology through his own lens. If Said Akl were to Speak attends to some of the episodes that stirred controversy throughout Akl’s life such as his demanding remuneration for his lectures and poetry readings. His poems were published in Al-Makshouf, one of Beirut’s largest literature magazines, as well as in Al-Sayyad, Lisan al-Hal and Al-Jarida to name but a few. Paradoxically, Akl maintained a special relationship with numbers and used to enrich his articles with statistics and facts. “Said Akl is a poet that outmatches historians when it comes to facts and politicians when it comes to evidence. He shocks with numbers.” said Ghassan Tuweini.
Special attention is accorded to Said Akl’s early works from Bint Yifta’, a shocking success within Beirut’s cultural circles, which was awarded the first prize at the literary league for the rarity and lucidity of its language to Qadmos, a masterpiece that was sold out one week after it was published in a luxury edition worth 50 Lebanese pounds, and also Rindala, the first Arabic courting (ghazal) piece in the Middle East. Space is dedicated to Akl’s friendship with the Rahbani brothers and the mark he left on their perception and understanding of art and life.
Henry Zogheib describes the fifty hours he spent with Said Akl as being ‘the richest and most valuable to his mind and his awareness of Lebanon in his entire life.’ These words come as no surprise from someone who has interviewed, befriended and lived in the epoch of a giant that sat on the throne of poetry and carried the Lebanese identity in both his spirit and his verses.