Northern Ireland

Brian Keenan among ex-Beirut hostages at literary festival

Brian Keenan, Terry Anderson and John McCarthy at Rostrevor Literary festival
Image caption Brian Keenan, Terry Anderson and John McCarthy share a joke at the Rostrevor Literary Festival

Three former hostages, held in Lebanon in the 1980s, have been talking about their ordeals at a County Down event.

Belfast-born Brian Keenan and journalists John McCarthy and Terry Anderson were speaking at the inaugural Rostrevor Literary Festival.

It is the first time in 20 years that Keenan and McCarthy have come together to relive their years in captivity.

Keenan told the BBC that talking about the past "makes things come back very clearly and poignantly".

He said he had to remind himself that he was talking to an audience.

"The past is literally and metaphorically another country to me," he added.

'Idea of Narnia'

Keenan, who was kidnapped in 1986 while teaching in the Lebanese capital Beirut, spent four years in captivity, mostly in chains and blindfolded.

He shared a cell with journalist John McCarthy, who became Britain's longest-held hostage in Lebanon. Both have written a number of books, including Keenan's "An Evil Cradling" and McCarthy's "You Can't Hide the Sun: a journey through Palestine".

US journalist Terry Anderson was also taken by Islamist militants during what became known as the Lebanon hostage crisis, and he spent six years in captivity.

Image caption Rostrevor, in the heart of the Mournes, has an interesting literary history

The one-day festival is taking place at Kilbroney Integrated Primary School, and while the morning session was dedicated to authors with a Middle East theme, poetry will dominate the afternoon session.

Although the festival is a first for the village, Rostrevor has some notable literary associations.

CS Lewis considered the part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough as "my idea of Narnia". There is a Narnia trail in Rostrevor's Kilbroney Park and James Joyce name-checked it in Ulysses.

Related Topics

More on this story