From science to business to literature, Lebanese writer Jean-Marie Kassab ventures into the realm of fiction and publishes Les Yeux D’Astrid to talk about success, purpose, loss, and the meaning of life. Kassab has studied biology at the American University of Beirut, AUB. He worked in business, consultancy and followed other pursuits to eventually begin another journey in the writing field.
How did you decide to venture into writing?
This whole writing practice started with sharing ideas on social media and few articles. It was my son who encouraged me to write a book and publish it instead of mere social media exposure. Following his advice, I started the journey with a lengthy thriller that has not been published yet, and later wrote Les Yeux D’Astrid.
What is the inspiration behind Les Yeux D’Astrid and what is the story about?
The main event that brought this work to life was the death of my mother that left me despondent and broken for a good while. I was so unhappy, and I thought the only way to recover was writing. It took me two month to finish it, but the real writing process was actually three nights. The story is about Francis, a successful business man who has fallen desperate and decides to end his life. While on the beach about to commit suicide, he somehow starts a conversation with a complete stranger, Astrid. Having no reason to live and face all the problems hitting him at once, Francis takes a glimpse on the struggles of people outside his own world and realizes that a smile is all what it takes to carry on despite all the pain.
Who is Astrid?
Astrid could be any stranger you meet anywhere, she could be a friend at school, she could even be an imaginary character. She is a trigger, an enzyme. For me, an authentic author must be extremely honest about how he/she expresses him/herself. It is very important that they let the characters evolve freely within the story. Astrid cannot be defined or shaped, she might as well be a mere voice in Francis’s head or soul.
What does this book represent for you as a person and as an author?
As a person, it a was a relief after a sad experience. As an author, I can say it was a successful trial. There are current plans to make the book into a movie as well. However, this project is still in its infancy phase.
What is the message you want to relay through this book?
The main theme in this story is the search for happiness. For me, happiness cannot exist. It is rather a pile of short moments of happiness, you cannot simply wake up and say you are happy. We live but fleeting moments of happiness and bliss, and each of these moments replaces moments of sadness and stress.
Jean-Marie Kassab has multidisciplinary interests. He has a keen belief that science, philosophy and literature are closely related and each inspires and nurtures the others. Besides his work Les Yeux D’Astrid, he is working on other books and keeps publishing on his personal website, where he shares his experiences and philosophies on diverse topics.