Autobiography, written retrospectively, presents the reader with a number of difficulties. For instance, to what extent can accuracy be credited to an account when it has been written a number of years after the events have taken place? The three selected extracts aptly illustrate this in that they demonstrate a degree of philosophical reflection that could only have occurred at leisure, in safety, and not whilst actually undergoing the trauma of a hostage situation. On the other hand, Keenan’s confessional tone and willingness to play the role of ‘voyeur’ encourages the reader to accept his recollections as perfectly trustworthy.
The poem’s title ‘Beirut Remembered’ is placed early in the text before Keenan has arrived in Lebanon. This placement lends a prophetic interpretation to its content. That it is intended as ‘prophecy’ is supported by several ominous incidents that occurred prior to departure and that Keenan presents as foreshadowing; namely, the dinner referred to as ‘the Last Supper’, the exchange of shirts, the lonely bus ride, etc The image of the fish used in the piece is visually striking and can be interpreted as representing Christianity or rather, humanity which has been ‘gutted’ or destroyed leaving a waste land where the ‘ghosts’ have become ‘masters of the light’. That the citizens of Lebanon are ‘ghosts’ could suggest that they live lives in the constant shadow of death or perhaps that the continual shelling has turned the populace into zombie-like creatures. The image of disembowelment is one which Keenan makes use of a number of times within the text. In particular, he relates a story to MacCarthy of the butchering of a goat, then draws a parallel with Lebanon. .
In extract two, it is Keenan himself who becomes first a ‘bag of flesh’, then ‘offal tossed unwanted in the corner of this filthy room.’ The savage sense of violation and violence whether a gutted fish or a disemboweled goat or even the reference to cannibalism in extract three: ‘Abed was feeding off our naked flesh’ supports Keenan’s contention that inhumane treatment of fellow human beings is abhorrent and completely unacceptable.