The One Hundred Year Secret: A Personal Saga of a Lebanese Immigrant in Brazil
By Jasmin Lilian Diab
Lebanese Emigration Research Center
Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon
The One Hundred Year Secret was discovered as a manuscript in 1980, following the death of its author. Jose Antonio Alves da Silva, the author’s grandson, unearthed the text from among his grandfather’s possessions. Jose was intrigued by a request inscribed in the first page, which read, “Must be published,” and dated, “10 December 1974.” The last wishes of the author have recently been realized: Entire East Publishing House in Lebanon published the story in March 2014.
Mr. Chebel Issa el-Khoury is the author and the subject of the story. The account is a “personal journey” of separation, nostalgia, lost love, and death. The author, who migrated to Brazil in 1910, was born in the village of Becharre in Lebanon in 1887. Before emigrating, he had met a young woman, and the two fell in love, promising each other eternal togetherness. Chebel’s migration circumstances and World War I, however, forever changed both their lives; thus, the story.
The book tells the saga of migration triangulated in three places: Lebanon, the United States of America, and Brazil while intertwining it with romantic, historical, and dramatic events. It is a veritable depiction of the different sentiments and traditions expressed within the historical context of local and international events — a saga that reveals how social norms in the Eastern culture affected the lives of women as the “weaker gender.”
The first introduction of the book is a brief biography of the author and the circumstances of discovery and publishing of the manuscript. Written by Mr. Roberto Khatlab, it praises the book as a true depiction of Lebanese migration and as an illustration of the tragic period of occupation, economic crisis, as well as the separation and hardships experienced by Lebanese families under Ottoman rule. Mr. Khatlab goes on to describe the book as a beautiful love story, and depicts Mr. El-Khoury as a sincere writer who was able to immortalize the memory of the woman he loved.
Dr. Guita Hourani, Director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center (LERC) at Notre Dame University-Louaize wrote the second introduction in which she briefly describes Lebanese migration from its onset to World War I and then moves on to highlight the importance of migration literature Al-Adab Al-Mahjari. She goes on to analyze the book through the various elements that constitute migration literature, i.e. the love for the homeland, separation and nostalgia, survival, and women’s rights. She concludes by accentuating the value of the book as a historical book written by common people; thus, allowing us to deepen our knowledge on human history.
The book is a truly moving journey that would resonate and touch those who have experienced migration through personal encounter or through the experiences of members of their families or friends.