Stories & Reflections
Pharès Zoghbi, born in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, moved to the Arab country at the age of 12, to live with his uncle. A passion and mania of reading and keeping books made Zoghbi establish one of the largest libraries in the country, with over 65,000 books, including some Brazilian works.
Sí£o Paulo – At the age of 12, Pharès Zoghbi left his native Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil, to live with his uncle in Kornet Chehwan, in the Mount Lebanon region, in Lebanon. Not speaking Arabic and with just a primary school certificate in hands, the boy had to fight to adapt. Today, aged 81, Zoghbi is the founder of one of the largest libraries in the Arab country, Pharès Zoghbi Cultural Foundation, with over 65,000 books.
Most of them are legal, as Zoghbi graduated in law, but the library also has literature, art, science, politics, sociology, religion and philosophy books, as well as biographies and rare collections of magazines, like “Espirit”, a French magazine that has been published since 1932. “With his humanistic spirit, he always visited bookstores while travelling to Beirut, Iran, Iraq, Europe and Brazil. A true biographer,” stated Roberto Khatlab, a writer and friend of Zoghbi’s, who was also born in Brazil and lives in Lebanon.
According to him, the library has books in several languages, mostly French, but also in Arabic and English. The library also includes Portuguese books, over 100 about law, sociology, religion, art, geography, politics, language, anthropology, immigration and literature. Among the works are books by authors like Jorge Amado, Zélia Gattai, Gilberto Freyre, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Luis Fernando Veríssimo, Paulo Coelho, Celso Furtado, Darcy Ribeiro, Mansour Chalita, Jalusa Abaide and Khatlab himself.
According to him, apart from the books written in Portuguese about Brazil, the library also includes works about the country in French, English, Spanish and Arabic. “Through literature, the Lebanese learn about Brazil in its several aspects. I love receiving Brazilians in the library due to the nostalgia for my homeland,” stated Zoghbi.
The library is located in Zoghbi’s house itself. “It is an ancient house, very large and has three storeys,” stated Khatlab. From the beginning, Zoghbi lent his books to friends, and little by little the inhabitants of Kornet Chehwan started visiting his house to consult his books.
In the 1990s, the library also received some of his private books, and donations, further increasing the volume of works and becoming a reference in humanities and social sciences. In 2002, Zoghbi decided to donate his books to the Law and Political Science College at Saint-Joseph University, of French origin, one of the largest in Lebanon, where he graduated. The university’s headquarters are in Beirut, but one of the campuses is in the Monte Lebanon region.
According to Khatlab, who has also made donations to the library, it would be interesting for Brazilian authors to donate some of their works to further enrich the library, which is a reference of Brazil in Lebanon. Contacts may be made through the university: www.fondationzoghbi.usj.edu.lb
In 2004, Zoghbi was granted the Choucri Cardahi Award by the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of the French Institute due to his importance as a lawyer and intellectual. In the following year, he was also awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the president of France.
Due to reading so many books, Zoghbi also started publishing his own works. In 1998, he published his autobiography: “Livres Ouverts – Une Vie de Souvenirs” (Open Books – A Life of Memoirs) and “Liban: Líª Salut par la Culture” (Lebanon: Salvation through Culture). Zoghbi also published a series of articles in the French language Beirut newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour, between 1982 and 1987.
*Translated by Mark Ament
This article is written by Marina Sarruf @ ANBA : Brazil-Arab News Agency.