What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin is a peculiar book with an evocative title that seems to promise an answer to an all-too-allusive question, which the roughly 250 pages somehow circumvent by running the gamut from discussions about irony and colonialism to reflections on othering and heteronormativity. Nominally authored by two writers, the industrious Lebanese novelist Rashid al-Daif and the much less known German author Joachim Helfer, the volume is structurally based on a variety of texts. Central is an initial essay (originally published separately in Arabic) by al-Daif on the experiences that he or his alter ego (arguably the same) gathered during an exchange program held in Berlin and Beirut and organized by the German West-Eastern Divan.

The West-Eastern Divan project took place between 2002 and 2005 and was inspired in name by...

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