Report on contemporary representative Palestinian literature
Exchange is a sign of humanization; cultural exchange is the most refined type of exchange at all. It had turned into the daily bread of life; translation became the most important means of cultural exchange.
This report presents 14 representative works of contemporary Palestinian literature, with a view to proposing their translation and publication in languages other the the original.
By: Abdul-fattah Al-Qalqili
History does not tell of any nation who lived and flourished in total isolation from other nations. If such a nation ever existed, it would not have survived ; and if it did survive, it would have never prospered or developed. Interaction is a key prerequisite for development whether for individuals or nations alike. Interaction could either take place through war or exchange. War demonstrates the worst in mankind ; and the war days are the worst starting with the first fight of Cain and Able and ending with any fight taking place now-a-days at this moment in any part of the world.
Exchange is a sign of humanization ; cultural exchange is the most refined type of exchange at all. It had turned into the daily bread of life ; translation became the most important means of cultural exchange . Mahmoud Al-Qee’y, head of the translation department at the UNESCO, draws our attention to the fact that contact through translation would help reach new concepts and lead to understanding and introduction among cultures and peoples. That forms a first step towards removing misunderstanding as an obstacle before accepting the other and reaching an understanding, spreading the culture of peace and tolerance.
The Arabic translation movement from other languages reached its peak at the golden Abbasid era in the second half of the eighth century. Thereafter,it continued at a slower pace but it kept its momentum in the opposite direction –i.e translation from Arabic into other languages- except for the Toledo school of translation which was founded by Alphonso, king of Castellon in the twelveth century A.D, which had a great impact on the age of enlightenment in Europe.
In Palestine, however, the first translation school in the world was established in Bethlehem at the place now called “Saint Jerome School”, according to professor Kostandi Shomali, president of the Palestinian Translation Society. However, in the contemporary age, translation movement got off to a start late in the nineteenth century. The Palestinian had a great share in transferring masterpieces of the world literature into Arabic with French and English having the major part in this process followed by the Russian language.The Palestinian literary works were not lucky enough except for a few translation into foreign languages.
The UN was founded in 1945 to prevent the outbreak of war, and if it did break out to put it off or rather confine its flames and act to reduce its effects. Immediately afterwards, the UNESCO was founded as an agency of the UN to inflame cultural exchanges, and if inflamed, act to increase its interaction and effects: meaning, war is an exchange of death while culture is an exchange of life being in the end the dominant life pattern.
The national development plan of the Palestinian Authority paid special significance to culture, and would act to establish a national council to foster translation – to look after translation of Palestinian literary works into foreign languages . The Ministry of Culture acts to lay down the foundations of that council and draw its future policies.
Starting from the point that the UNESCO serves as bridge of culture and sciences among nations of the world, the Palestinian Ministry of Culture met with the world organization through its representative body at the Palestinian National Authority as a first step on the road and approved a project aimed at increasing the international interest in the Palestinian literature through translating some Palestinian literary works. The Palestinian Ministry of Culture will act to classify Palestinian literary works and select the list of works nominated for translation. The UNESCO, in its turn, would refer the list to the “Literary Translation House” who would prepare the texts for translation and publishing. Thereafter, the said list would be the focus of the “Translation House’s” campaigns directed towards the publishers involved in foreign literatures.
For carrying out such a task at the time,the Ministry of Culture formed a committee headed by colleague As’ad Al-As’ad which held a number of meetings but met many obstacles including the restrictions on the movement of its members which made it difficult to convene the committee.Recently, the members concurred to replace the committee by a work team whose members would choose separately a number of texts which colleague As’ad would later group into one unified coordinated list and would afterwards distribute them as reading assignments among the team members. I have had the honor to be on the membership of the team,and unluckily enough I was entrusted with the chairmanship of the team a few days ago due to the unfortunate health condition of colleague As’ad. I had to fill the blank and if I failed, I will be satisfied with the fact that I made my best efforts for the job.
While wishing speedy recovery for my brother and colleague As’ad, I wish to offer a summary of the efforts so far exerted by all members:
Though the team members are capable of the task and are qualified for it, still they are not necessarily the most capable for it.
In addition to previous readings of the literary works by the team members when they nominated them for translation, they are still required to make a an other critical reading of the same works to submit brief reviews.
Though all the works chosen are worthy of translation, still they are not necessarily the worthiest ones.
It was never meant in this project to present the Palestinian most extraordinary literary works but to present the good ones because our intention is not to stun others but rather to have the world look at us the same way they look at all other peoples of the world; a people who has land, history,genius, and normal talented people –that we deserve life, freedom and independence.
We do not claim that we are God’s chosen people and that others are our servants in peace and war but we affirm that we are one of God’s peoples with all the duties and rights inherent therein.We do not claim that we are superior to other peoples on Earth but insist that equality, cooperation, interaction, reciprocation and mutual support with them.We answer Allah’s call : “Ye peoples, we created you of male and female, made you peoples and tribes to get to know each other ”. Translation constitutes the most important paved roads for getting to know other peoples.
5-When choosing a book, we strictly observe the book’s traits and works’ specifications:
a-The list shall include a book of both sexes, of the dead and the alive, of the residents inside the homeland and those living abroad.
b –The list shall not be restricted to one literary gender and shall not be confined to one theme but to many.
c- As for texts (actually) selected for translation which needed clarification of some terminologies (specially historical novels ), we shall provide the translator with a terms checklist to use as a reference.
To exemplify what we said, we give below a selection pattern of five novels which were authored by four male writers and one female writer ; one of them is dead while the other four are still alive , two of them are residing inside homeland while two others are living abroad. As for the novels’ content, one of them was symbolic, the second historical and the third were historic ( i.e historical in the sense that it talks about known historical events while historic means that it reflects the history a certain era – writes down history ), the fourth talks about the tragedies of expatriation and fears of return and the fifth talks about the return and the pains of expatriation. The five novels mentioned above are :
Memoirs of a Chicken – Dr. Ishaq Mousa Al-Huseini- Dar Al-Ma’aref of Egypt 1943.
Acre and the Kings –Ahmad Rafiq AWad – Bait Al-Maqdes for Publishing and Distribution – Ramallah, 2004.
Phoenix ( Canaan’s Land)-Abdul Karim Al-Sab’awi –Sabil for Printing And Publishing, Australia, 1989.
The Neighing of Distances –Laila Al-Atrash –Dar Al-Sharqiyat for Publishing and Distribution –Cairo, 1999.
A River Bathing in a Lake – Yahya Yakhlof – Dar al-Shorouq for Publishing and Distribution – Ramallah, 1997.
The work team shall continue to perform its duty, and the final list shall be submitted to the UNESCO by May 5th next.
Mahmoud Shuqair’s “ Cousin Condoliza”
When classifying creative art production, M. Shuqair stands as a prolific writer whose list of versatile works ranging from short stories,children fables, plays to autobiographies exceeds the figure of twenty.
Shuqair belongs to that generation of the 1960’s short story writers who emerged strongly in Palestine through the Al- Ofq Al-Jadid (New Horizon Magazine) which used to be published in Jerusalem. The publication introduced a number of young pens at the time, some of who continued writing while most others totally disappeared or fell back as is usually the case.
Despite his writing to the magazine, Shuqair was late in collecting his stories in a book until 1975 when his first collection “Bread of the Others” appeared and supported his late beginnings in the wake of his deportation to Amman from Jerusalem by the Israeli occupation authorities on account of his being a political activist.
In Amman, he co-founded the Jordanian Writers’ Association and kept on its board membership for long years to come during which he published his “The Palestinian Boy”, Rituals of a Miserable Woman”, “Silence of the Windows” and “ The Flashy Crossing”.
Shuqair is an experienced adept writer despite a conservative impression bestowed on him by his first and second collections whose texts were featured with a conspicuous ideological propensity albeit the strength of aesthetic suggestion which their strong narrative betrayed.In his third, fourth, and fifth collections, he vehemently turned to writing the “very short story” which drew very close to the short but condense poem in the form of texts laden with certain implications and shadows borne by an austere language more similar to a subtle fishing zone.
The above introduction was almost necessary as a start to monitor the most recent turning point in Shuqair’s works, which first appeared in his collection “Shakira’s Images”,and which he later established as a style and theme in his last collection “Cousin Condoliza”.
In an act of surprise, Shuqair changes his seat and angle view as typical of a writer who wishes to tell tales of the place and of himself recalling local patterns to be told of to others; something like saying : “this is what happens over here” or “this is what happens to us ”. Thus goes on the Palestinian writing mode mostly towards describing the tale in its special venue as surrounded by its heroes’ fates, apprehensions, life content and loadings.
A sort of a secret door Shuqair opens “here” from where he makes mention of some names and references in an ever - growing outside world, and invites them into the weaving of the reality, people’s homes and dreams.
Such names like Shakira, Naomi kimple, Condoliza Rice and Rumsfield came to be part of people’s knowledge and simple awareness borrowing their presence in the tale and monitoring the reflexes of their presence on the course of daily life of a popular Jerusalemite neighborhood living under military siege, unemployment and blocked horizons.
Shuqair had prepared the venue properly for the presence ; he had also chosen his patterns with conscious haphazardness relying on naïve and fragmented references of the outside world and its “heroes” formed through newspaper clippings, satellite channels’ shows and astray news reports,which comes closer to the act of conducting a chemical experiment of introducing a foreign chemical element that would drive underground water up to the surface and form adequate features for dreams that were never ever within reach.
Not far from these transformations and deep changes, there is yet that unchangeable factor, namely occupation which appears in quick but decisive shots as if to remind us of the tale’s origin and its real reference ; there is an occupation patrol wandering in the lives of those people, at their door and bed steps , a patrol which reproduces and wastes the dreams and hopes which they pinned over the visit of persons from the outside world to their tiny reality.
Alaza’ar ( bad guy) resembles the walk of the girl to that of Naomi Kimple ;he would quarrel with her lover and the neighborhood would keep busy analyzing Naomi Kimple’s character, biography and behavior,and the tale would reach the point of discovering Kimple’s ancestral relationship to the neighborhood; alderman attempts to invite Rumsfield to his home seeking to boost his status in the neighborhood but events take an entirely opposite direction ; the neighborhood singer seeks to publish an album with Shakira and therefore enters into a family struggle with the art critic of the local paper.
All that takes place while the occupation patrol stalks like a silent ghost in their lives thereby constituting the only invariable in consecutive transformations. Shuqair could cleverly portray the Jerusalemite neighborhood and, by adding new elements, could reveal what was heretofore a deeply- entrenched potential in its reality using a simple language and a clear sense of calm and deep humor.
Mohammad Al-Qaisi’s “HAMDA’S BOOK”
This is an extremely special book combining between the sweetness of poetry and the spontaneous overflow of early recollections from the past ; it falls under the category of open texts in which literary genders intermingle. One day, the late M. Al-Qaisi told his friends : “Hamda is my mother. I will shed poetic tears on her enough to wet her grave and perhaps she would feel happy that the best of what I wrote was about her”.
Hamda is the stead fasting and enduring Palestinian woman whose diseased husband left behind him two daughters and an orphan boy who is the poet himself. She had to work hard and “hit her head against the rocks” for the sake of raising her little family.To add to her suffering, the Palestinian Al-Nakba (1948 debacle) took place and their ensuing displacement to a refugee camp.
The greatest reward that mother received was the success of her family in life.
An autobiography and a march
The late poet Mohammad Al-Qaisi had prepared for his Hamda’s Book a house furnished with tears, mythology, memories, approaches and disclosures ; he hosted, using the term he cherished, segments of the world literature and the popular tales to enhance an odyssey which life prepared with extreme cruelty.No matter how far he went in his prolonged text, he would in the end reaffirm his return to Hamda where he first started.In many instances, he would use her name without any linguistic need for it ; he mentions the name for the mere melody it carries, to assert his presence through it thus, putting the credit where it belongs.
The only songs I know are those which I picked from your garden.
She is a cosmic mother extending in his entity to become every mother. Therefore by losing her he became the “orphan of all beings”. His mates in orphanage are her kids too and they spread out:
Your orphan kids are aligning with space
In the midst of his preoccupation with searching for what supports his grief for her loss which grief never runs out , he resorts to the legend turning it up side down.If in the Egyptian legend Orora’s tears fill the space with grief on her dead son Mamnoun, Al-Qaisi overturns the tale to make son Mamnoun the eternal weeper on the Egyptian Orora who turned into the Palestinian Hamda. Soon afterwards, the biography of Hamda the widow and her four orphans turns into a march for the only boy amongst the girls. While she quarrels with time, he grows and the biography and the march rises up on three pillars: Khalil, the dead father whose image appears blurred against the scene’s background close to a spiritual reference for the mother and more of a moral guard for the son.Hamda is the mother who would one day shout : How few my men are ! but she carries water in the clay jugs for the luxurious women and suffers to ensure the boy’s march in life and the future of the two girls after the eldest got a hard marriage deal while the third in number died at eight and then comes the turn of the son who would exclusively possess the second book to become the narrator, the story, the witness and the poet.Al-Qaisi resorts to the inherited country songs, wailings and solo melodies enveloped in a language mixture of the sentence structure as in the Holy Book, the Cananite Book of Pearls or the Pharos’ Book of the Dead. He could turn into a self monitor as the adult poet watches the boy which he was one day.
I am the young boy, who saw me
Or saw him collecting wild figs and dates,
Chasing butterflies and grasshoppers
And setting traps.
The beauty of life, however,is only self-deception. Mother Hamda pumps her heart’s blood into her son’s soul so as to keep him happy, to study and grow up.She vowed to Khalil, her husband,to abandon any black powder she used to beautify her eyes, give up the hand- ornamented dresses and never to be covered by a blanket with another man .Her son- come poet would remember all that:
Good evening, ye sleeping kingdom of her
Good evening, ye clear crystal of her
Your words were a dictionary, my book, my curse, my travel
Your words were the sigh of the earth which gave my blood the permission.
She is the one “ praised among the widows” and she is the “poetic end ” being the one who lasts after our birds pass by, after our strolls and directions pass by. He continues : I pass by and stay, and your poetry stays …life stays … life…l i f e.Upon closing Hamda’s Book, the poet never forgets to call upon his readers to pray that his life be long enough to complete writing his march after he accomplished Hamda’s biography.When a person at the age of forty two hopes to stay longer , we could imagine the extent of death’s presence in his mind or even the formation of the death seed in his soul since he became an orphan at the age of two.
Book of the Son
If Hamda’s Book encompassed a glowing text of poetry and sorrow where poetry mixes with life prose’s cross lines and time coincidences, the second book of this triad work, namely the “Book of the Son” reaches the dramatic epical climax taking the form of autobiography.Be ware, we are not before a memoirs notebook but before a poet who cuts branches, leaves and buds from the tree of his life knowing the ties that bind them together even at a time when he surprises himself by an incident that took place long ago or a wound that can not be reconciled unless it is opened anew. He starts with what he calls the “ author’s speech and introduction to himself”. When he borrows this traditional term from the heritage “the author’s speech” instead of the modern contemporary term “introduction”, he in fact opts for reaffirming the expansion of the vision area into the far past and deep time.When he returns to the word “introduction”, we see that he adds it to himself not only for the sake of self-centering but because the essence of creativeness lies in the act “individualizing” the world. Though he tells us his march , but he also tells us part of the human suffering which the Palestinian people either coincidentally or otherwise encountered.Such a fact he clarifies from the first lines when he addresses his mother: “ my words about you would remain perfect … my words are the bells of this heavenly anguish”. It is interesting that the Book of the Son, his autobiography starts with a speech addressed to his mother as if all that book which he had just finished and dedicated to her was not enough. In fact, it was the coincidence of the two icons: the mother and the child. The father was present in both together as a mission in the mother and an extension in the son.
Al-Qaisi would start his autobiography upon the moment of Al-Nakba. The country fell and the bereaved Palestinian had had to manage and cope with their new reality. Here, Hamda who had become a widow two years ago in her village “Kufr Anah “, would be removed from Bahia,her eldest daughter,who would leave with her husband to the unknown. Hamda would embrace the remainders : Nadia, Zakiyya, and the last one in the breed who is the only son : where you go from here, mother of Mohammad ? The book will be overflowing with bitterness caused by the occupation which usurped the land and displaced the people, by the relatives who gave a cold shoulder to the widow and her orphans, by destiny which deprived her from her husband and shepherd in the midst of her and their worst need for him, by poverty which ground the bones but not to the point of giving up motherhood and dearest ones. She would work in the houses, fields, carrying water, weeping far-away Bahia and guard the other kids with her soul. However, poverty would ally itself with ignorance to snatch Zakiyya away. A pernicious kind of worms spread out in the refugee camp. Worms used to come out of the refugees intestines as a result of the bad food distributed by the UNRWA those days, The refugees discovered a fearful treatment for that ailment : ignorance juice. They went on drinking gasoline to kill the worms in their stomachs but what happened is that gasoline killed Zakiyya instead and disturbed her mother’s life as she could not stop blaming herself for that disaster. Zakiyya’s death would turn into the key of Mohammad’s relationship with death. He did not contemplate death but he lived it, was obsessed with it and wondered if he would have joined his sister had he drunk the gas like her.
Mohammad would then grow up, show industriousness in seeking his living as a street seller of newspapers, hotel boy, restaurant worker. He would smoke cigarettes, keep busy away from school which would cause his mother Hamda to suffer, and they would have a noisy quarrel over that. He would discover the innocent love in Hasiba, daughter of the refugee camp, without exchanging talk with her, and would learn the alphabets of the female body language through the night caressing of Rasmyia, their neighbor’s daughter. He knew the genie stories and they gave him the shedders.As an adolescent, he would be terribly shocked when he was charged of steeling by an other hotel boy who worked with him. The reader would tremble when one reads of Al-Qaisi as a young man in prison attacked by a trained dog. He would then be proven innocent but the incident leaves a deep scar in his soul. However, he was not raised to be physically weak as he played sports, tried boxing side by side with writing which began to overwhelm his life. He would rebel against the alderman who had asked him to write speeches in his own name when Al-Qaisi would declare that he was the real speech writer. He would recall his father as a farmer and a man of principles who had dreamt of raising a strong and attentive son.
Death is what identifies the world of this boy who broke his arm while flying a kite.
He would discover travel and wandering until he finds out : “places in themselves turned into walking to places ; time is a fast -moving chariot towards its likes”. The text which is written would then reads : this is the book which I wrote to present my death autobiography before death.”
The Last Picture in the Album
A novel by : Samih Al-Qasem
This is a short but condense novel written by such a great renowned poet : Samih Al-Qasem. He was only nine when the state of Israel was established.He kept residing in Rameh, his Galilee village, together with his family where he was raised and educated. The novel together with its predecessor “ To Hell with the Lilac “ could be considered a documentation of the sufferings of the Palestinians who stayed behind in their land under impossible living conditions.
“The Last Picture in the Album” is not a novel written in black and white. If there is the picture of the ruthless Israeli officer who looks down at Amir,the Palestinian young man, there is yet that of Ruty, the officer’s daughter who leans towards Amir and sympathizes with h brother, Ali. Her father would yet commit a crime of killing Ali and would add his picture to his victims’ special album.
Among other human coincidences was that Ruty would die as a result of her father’s cruelty in the hope that her picture would be the last in her father’s album.
The Course of the novel: The Last Picture in the Album
Amir is a Palestinian youth from Gallili, who studied hard in difficult conditions to obtain his certificate in the field of political sciences but the Israeli authorities would not employ a Palestinian in its diplomatic corps unless he was a collaborator.Therefore, he turns into unemployment and anger and waste of time free of charge.The matter becomes even worse when Ali, his brother, passes the Pagerot test , the Israeli equivalent for the general secondary school certificate. He would not also be allowed to enroll at the university for racial reasons.
There appears in the horizon Abdel-Rahim, a nice communist fellow and a friend of Amir, who persuades him to work as a bartender at one restaurant as the only available option but one which demands patience, endurance and long breath.
Amir collides with the officer accidentally and pours the liquids he carries on him.The Israeli officer reproaches him but Amir would not let the insult go. Ruty, the officer’s daughter, would admire his dignity and would contact him behind her father, and the two would get closer to each other both psychologically and emotionally. Meanwhile, Ali, Amir’s brother, would feel fed up with unemployment, and would feel frustrated as he could not continue his study, therefore he decides to escape to Syria seeking a better opportunity at any level : study or work ; an Israeli borders’ force would intercept and kill him . We would discover that the officer who fired on Ali was Ruty’s father, the same racist officer who used to brag about the number of his victims and put their pictures in his special album to show to his friends on occasions.Ruty would be in the coffee shop when a young Jew tells her that her father was a hero because he killed a new terrorist. When she would see the picture in the newspaper, she would recognize him as Ali whom she knew through Amir, her lover and his brother, that nice and innocent boy whom Ruty visited him at home when she was invited by his brother.Could he be turned into a picture in father’s dreadful album? Ruty would tremble and collapse and suffers a nervous breakdown when her mother arrives with all the sympathy, compassion, fear and love but could not save her.
Ruty takes her picture from her identity card and plants in her father’s album hoping to be the last picture in the album,meaning that she considers herself one of her father’s victims who killed her objectively when he ordered Ali’s killing.
It is a deep human outcry of protest against racism, killing and non-recognition of other’s humanity.
The novel reveals two levels of social relations : the first in the Arab community inside Israel where youth suffer from unequal opportunities in study and jobs, where unemployment turns into a daily state of silenced grumbling and anger and where a university graduate would work as a bartender at a restaurant or a tavern to earn his living provided that he hides his identity and change his name when required to avoid insult and provocation by the Jews. The younger generation who holds the general secondary school certificate and is at the threshold of university might think of leaving the country to look for an opportunity.The fathers and mothers generation remains unable to provide anything to their sins except the prayers and patience. Despite all this, the Palestinian mother would not have a preconceived aggressive view against the Jews. She would say: your fingers are not all the same and there must those whom you could deal with.In fact,we see that there is a theoretical opportunity of human relations between the Amir, the Arab and Ruty, the Jew but racism, cruelty and force would kill that opportunity.
The other level is the Jewish community where the officer controls the family system through the military behavior which clashes with the humanitarian relationship between Ruty and her mother. The mother attempts to accommodate the fierce mood her officer husband , show sympathy towards her tender daughter Ruty and she is keen to provide security and self-assurance at home.How could this assurance be possible overshadowed by an album filled with pictures of Arab victims killed by the father officer? The prevailing atmosphere of hatred against the Arabs could poison the nature of the human life.We would discover this, not only with the officer himself but also with the Jewish youth who saw Ruty at the restaurant and broke the news to her that her father killed an Arab as though that was a heroic act worthy of every praise.
The last word which the novel would pass to us is that violence eats up not only its victims but also its perpetrators. Ruty’s death is only a painful expression of the violence and its reflection on the officer’s internal life.
The novel is characterized by local touches and details and needs explanatory notes to help the reader understand the private features of the people in this part of the world.
Autobiography of Bani Ballout Dynasty
A novel by Mohammad Ali Taha
Mohammad Ali Taha, the writer,president of the Arab Writers Federation in Israel, gained his literary reputation through writing short stories as he published a number of story collections and through the satirical short essays in the newspapers. In his Bani Ballout autobiography, Taha opens avenues for the novel in a typically distinguished style combining the magic of the popular tale and the historical events.He traces back the parental ancestry of Mustafa Ballout,the novel’s hero, to Huran plains in Syria and the maternal ancestry to Lebanon in a clear signal that both Syrian territories were originally a single entity.The author follows up Mustafa’s autobiography since the naughty childhood until he became a rebel against the British in 1936 recalling some of his fathers exploits.During his popular semi-epical narrative, the author reveals deep and interesting aspects of the Palestinian life in the countryside in the first half of the twentieth century. We would read stories of love, bravery, plots and poverty ; a thing which spreads a literary atmosphere commemorating group spirit while asserting the special nature of each character.
About Bani Ballout
The novel lies in two hundred medium-sized pages, tensely and indicatively dedicated to the “soul of my father”.Though he traces the family tree of Bani Ballout back to Lebanon yet, he uses a prelude combining both the subjective and the objective together when he points to the death of the narrator’s father as taking place on Thursday Sept.3rd, 1981,which we would discover that it was the death date of the author’s father himself. We, therefore, realize that he adopts the character of Khalil Ballout not as a reproduction of autobiography but as being his own intrinsic subconscious autobiography.The novel is distributed into fourteen chapters with each carrying a separate subtitle and follows the course of the popular saga to accommodate between the real state of affairs and the background on which memory stands.
Mustafa Ballout, the father, leaves behind for his inheritors a clay jug and leaves a will making it the share of his son Khalil.Though such wills stir sensitive feelings, the thing which puts the fire off was that the jug was almost empty except from the autobiography of Bani Ballout as lived by grandfather Jaber and father Mustafa.
The legacy here is not money over which sons fight but rather a history to learn from. The autobiography tells that Mustafa was a discrete and decisive young man of resolute and willpower who witnessed a traditional village-life challenge against one of village’s tough guys. The challenge was to visit the cemetery at night and leave a clear sign that he was there.Mustafa would then infiltrate the burial place to scare him away and spoil his task.A few days later, Mustafa would declare that he could reach the cemetery and when he succeeds in doing that he turns into a little hero in whose
Falls Jawhara, a wife of the Effendi ( local celebrity ) and makes a habit of dating at her home at night until the Effendi caught and insulted him but fearing scandal turned him loose . Mustafa who bore the shame of that night would turn into another kind of person when he joined the rebels. Having been caught by the Effendi, he went down town to live away from the eyes. In a matches factory meets the workers closely attached to the revolution against he British.The qualitative shift in his life takes place when he meets the “Sheikh”, the leader of the revolution. When he rose in ranking,and his reputation became wide spread, the Effendi came offering to divorce Jawhara, his wife in his favor as if to bribe him using his wife because such a type of society celebrities could not live except under force, the force of occupation yesterday and that of revolution today. Mustafa turns away from him in disdain.
Mustafa then falls in love with Tamima, the pretty girl who could communicate the messages of the rebels to Abdul-Karim,the patriotic policeman. Mustafa Ballout together with his colleagues Sirhan, Marzouk, Al-Fahd, Abdul-Karim and Tamima would then pass through interesting adventures in which their lives were put at stake. And when the Commander tries to set them up, Mutafa carries an assassination attempt against him but he miraculously escapes death. That was not the only shooting mistake Mustafa did because,in a later incident, Mustafa would fire at the traitor Effendi only to realize that he shot dead the patriotic policeman, Abdul Karim. After that shocking tragedy, the rebel could only upkeep his gun and wander in the prairies to begin the next chapter which has not as yet appeared in the novel.
Thus, the will hidden in the jug opens an avenue of memories, a re- reading of 1936 experience and its aftermath, and a re-assessment of the expertise, efficiency and options which calls for writing a complementary novel for two reasons: the first dealing with the history of Palestine, while the other is a subjective-objective reason to highlight the history of Bani Ballout noting that the author relies heavily on the popular expressions such as : so and so is cut off from a tree …..so he is from Ballout dynasty …Ballout is a kind of strong deep-rooted tree (oak) but is only a tree…
What attracts one’s attention in the novel’s narration is that all its chapters end with a single statement: the secret kept with us …what is the secret which Mohammad Ali Taha wanted to confide in this novel of his?
A novel by Rashad Abu Shawar
This is a novel inspired by a story whose key events really took place during the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993) in which realism and symbolism integrate to portray the human tragedy in living and coexistence become almost impossible under the policy of oppression and occupation.
In the novel, a Palestinian and a Jew die whereas in normal circumstances one could possibly have rescued the other but for the circumstances created by occupation which is connected with cruelty that hinders the spontaneity of life and cooperation between human beings.When the Jew stands in need of a part of the Palestinian’s body who has no hope in life after receiving a fatal injury during the Intifada, a number of human patterns emerge to offer their views in this thorny issue but only too late.
The question is: who is to blame for this death? …The Palestinian young man was killed by an occupation -troops’ bullet, while the Jew who needed the Palestinian’s heart died before the Palestinian’s relatives could make up their minds whether to permit transplant the heart of their killed son in the body of a man who belongs to group who killed their son.
It constitutes a tragedy and a question combined together at a tough dramatic moment
to form an issue raised before the human conscience.
The Course of Events in the Novel:
The events of this novel take place in the city of Nablus at Christmas during the first Intifada. Key events move in two areas in the same city. People in Nablus, as in all other places, are neighbors who love each other and marry from each other. At that time, their was an engagement waving in the horizon but normal living is rendered impossible under such abnormal circumstances as occupation troops are deployed in the city, children are throwing stones on soldiers, bullets’ sounds rock the air .. and Youngman Nasser Al-Hawwash falls down hit by one bullet that leaves him staggering between life and death.
In another place, inside Israel, a Jewish man enters hospital after suffering a heart stroke ; doctors judge that his case is hopeless unless he receives a new heart transplant,but who would sacrifice his heart in favor of another person ? A strange idea crosses the mind of Yesrael’s family : To buy the heart of a wounded Palestinian who has no hope in recovery.Therefore, they offer the deal to Nasser Al-Hawwash’s family: a heart for Yesrael against a large amount of money ….
In normal human situations, people would reciprocate, as in many donation cases we hear about. For Nasser’s family the matter goes far beyond Yesrael being an Israeli whose people are occupying Nasser’s country. The real problem was that they were those who tore out his body with their bullets, could they, then, be rewarded by taking the heart of their victim to save their son?
If the equation was such as clearly seen by Nasser’s family, how could it bee seen from an academic doctor’s standpoint? It is a man saving another…this is not an easy solution as a matter of fact.The one whose heart is to be taken away would die. The logic of life replies that the alive is better than the dead.The logic of the bereaved family : the one who would become dead is only that who was killed by the folks of that whom they want to see alive….
Through such an inhuman incident , occupation interprets the conditions of human relations. What makes the problem even worse is that the deal offers money vis-a-avis life. The opportunity for human sympathy is thus wasted in the midst of a massacre whose toll claims more innocent souls everyday.
In the midst of this perplexity and confusion, Nasser Al-Hawwash dies which most likely means that Yesrael would die too. The symbolic level stops here as the death of the Palestinian and the Israeli does not mean at all that the rivals on this land died. Nasser’s family is still there ; Yesrael’s family is still there too. Death threatens to spread out so long as others’ rights are usurped and so long as there is resistance.
The last light signal is one of different symbolic feature as on the day of Nasser’s death came Christmas which is,in principle,a symbol of life revival but if it meant the birth of Jesus himself, then its meaning would expand to the possibility of thinking of peace which was not practically realized. The question is : who makes the advent of Christmas connected with tears and blood? It is not Nasser’s family, of course… as they were attacked, their homes, freedom were confiscated and their children are nominees to join Nasser as the bullets of the occupation troops are waiting for them. The occupation soldiers are also in a state of war, and consequently, each of them is in danger ; but who is the aggressor?
In the novel, there is an opportunity to present various views on this issue. In fact,everyone who gives an opinion expresses a position or an attitude at the level of ethics or at the level of the nation… The victim remains the human life in itself. If the scene’s conditions were fair, there would not have been death except in the natural meaning which visits all people.
Confined in a pale corner is a love story which could not emerge like it should. The light in Zainab’s far away Windows becomes dim as if asking the question : how did this happen and why?
Selected Works of Young Palestinian Talents
The most important feature of creative works of young writers in Palestine is perhaps their indulging into the details of daily life in an act closer to restoring the normalcy of life and getting closer to the private and personal concern in the midst of a reality that witnesses dramatic transformations including everything built on it .
The breakdown of the “big thoughts” in the political sense which used to characterize the consciousness of a whole phase has tainted the Palestinian creative production in the occupied territories and the Diaspora with their dictionary and desires.That breakdown left its deep impact on the young writings of Palestinian talents who suddenly found themselves before a question and facts of different nature, most prominent among which are:
-The collapse of the notion of “hero” and the continued process of dissecting its traits, status, description inside the text and in life as well.This could be felt in most young texts both in story and poetry.A group of ideas and questions accomplished by Palestinian intellectuals over the last three decades had contributed to stirring the mainstream national political Palestinian venture and moved it a little away from all that stands as “sacred” to a fresh awareness and knowledge of this generation.
Proposing new community –based and civil- society means and tools onto the Palestinian resistance venture has perhaps contributed a great deal to open holes in what used to be viewed as “sacred” and deep rooted with all the different meaning, dictionary, relationships, implications, perspectives and aesthetical aspects which those propositions carried.
Hence, I found that there is an utmost importance, a research field and a rich knowledge in the clear signs which the young generation of Palestinian talents leaves on the new trends of Palestinian creative writing. This shift has not yet crystallized into a key trend in the scene though it continued to be there and received a boost from the contributions of a large number of young writers including a substantially noticeable rate of creative female writers.
The return of many Palestinian intellectuals from exile to Palestine under the “Oslo Accords” has no doubt contributed to finding a new level of controversy between the exile experience and expertise on the one hand and the experience accumulated by Palestinian intellectuals who lived under occupation inside on the other ; a thing which made it possible to open a wide space for questions and exchange of expertise from which the young Palestinian creative generation benefited a tremendous amount as there experience was formulated in the midst of that controversy and its varieties.The questions, knowledge and consciousness of the new text arose in between the openness of the text written in exile onto Arab and international experiences on the one hand,and the text accomplished inside under the occupation’s conditions, policies and the text’s ability to network with the place and its loads.
We could here mention names of poets like : Walid Al-Sheikh, Mahmoud Abu Hashash, Kifah Fanni, Sumayya Al-Susie , Dunia Al- Amal Ismael, Hala Al-
Shrouf, and Mohammad Al-Dirawi , names of story writers such as : Basima Takrori, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Ahlam Besharat, Nibal Thawabteh, Said abu Al-Mu’la, Majed atef, Yousef Al-Shayeb, Ziad Khaddash, Saleh Masharqa and names of young critics such as : Abdel Rahim Al-Sheikh and Malik Al-Rimawi, all of whom have bestowed new dimension and variation to the Palestinian scene.
The Secrets of the Sparrow
By: Akram Hanniyeh
The Secrets of the Sparrow is the fifth collection of writer Akram Hanniyeh which appeared 15 years after publishing his fourth book “When the night of Jerusalem lights” in 1986. In order of age, Hanniyeh belongs to the middle zone between the second and third generations of short story writers in Palestine.
His stories are distinguished with that special mixture of an extremely daily normality through marginalized characters and patterns breathing in the shadows and roaming in live while carrying their casual and random loads: memory, home, work,concerns of daily living and their dealing with the great events through their own perspectives whereby occupation in all its painful details like the checkpoints, Apaches and street demonstrations turn into a part of their daily adaptation to others’ intervention to spoil their life.
Hanniyeh’s patterns have a political platform and great thoughts though they do not wish to change the world as they are deeply preoccupied with their day-to-day issues and protecting their little dreams similar to returning home safely, passing through a checkpoint without losses or watching the Apache hovering over looking for its preys…..
Sometimes, the narrator of Hanniyeh’s stories sounds to be a smart outsider and far removed from events fostering others’ destinies and their safe passing ; he stands as a describer more than a partner in the tale, which is very much closer to the oriental text methods in the tale or the “Moqamas” (telltale song). He does not seem to be able to change the reality or the destinies of those who move about in the tale despite all his attempts which sound as partnership with the reader more than an actual presence in the text to adjust the courses of the tales though he uses “data” and knowledge foreign to the place; a knowledge which attributes to himself rather than his patterns or characters, and attempts together with recipient to transform them into margins, descriptions or clarification to offer assistance to those who live inside the text.
Using the technique of “flashback”, Hanniyeh re-tells his life in a way very similar to the act of delivering deposits. In his “Bed Sleeping”, he goes directly to his death and starts describing his visitors, his killer and his funeral.
In his “ Ordinary Day”, he mixes between the simplicity of people’s concern with death and the Apache aircraft in cross line with the Red Indian massacres in America!
As an example one could choose his story called “ The Magic of Love ” which draws the attention as providing an evident pattern of Hanniyeh’s making.
“The Magic of Love ” is a short story within the Secrets of the Sparrow” collection which talks about a professor at Bier Zeit university who tries to reach a further zone in writing about people, outside the war and occupation’s dictionary in an attempt to retrieve people’s ordinariness and life normalcy …and in an absolute purposefulness decides to write a love story in an attempt to exclude the war and to remove it from the street and from the road to the university, from the TV screen and from writing as well.
“I got fed up with writing “militant” stories ; I want a story with no jails, no militants, no occupation and no martyrs….I want to embody long nights where lovers wait for their loved ones’ letters rather than waiting the knocks of occupation troops patrols …I want to portray the moments of real joy …I want to write an ordinary love story..a very ordinary one….
The austere language I used to resort to in my previous stories would disappear …
I will be set free from many chains of content and language…”
Hanniyeh’s attempt to rebel against war as a prevalent and current text filling the place all over, his rebellion against his writing and his personal creative history is similar to turning around a violent reality and producing a desirable ordinariness ; such ordinariness is what happens to others outside this war and outside the rhetorical fences of the place ; a thing which Mahmoud Darwish tries to do in his book “ The Memory of Oblivion” when he tried to resist the invasion , the siege of Beirut, the Israeli air force, the others’ death and the war’s fluency by attempting to restore an ordinary day starting with making the very special coffee, ignoring the war which continues its madness at the edge of the window and going to the rhetoric of a lost personality. In Darwish’s book, it was noticeable that the dead were those who had special names while the alive were roaming in the text using symbols and vague signals similar to masks protecting the faces of their wearers.
Hanniyeh, however, is confronted with the rebellion of his two heroes against him when they decided without consulting him to join the demonstration which will end with their killing at the hands of the Israeli troops. “No doubt”, they preferred their real place to that proposed by the writer and his desire to get out of the “place’s ordinariness” towards borrowing a lost “ordinariness” manufactured with extreme diligence and awareness inside this “war”. Numerous small wars spread out like islands in an overwhelming ocean : a war of the writer with his writing past and his attempt to change his writing and a war of the writer with his writing habits of isolating himself from what is happening outside his idea. He did not listen to the morning news bulletin as an unintentional trick to turn around the war which would appear upon leaving home to his workplace in the form of a demonstration, university closure, a settlement and soldiers ……..He would watch the demonstration in the city to the end and the two heroes he “created” would be shot dead…..There is no story telling here ; war is the real story told and the key narrator in the scene. When the place is filled with the other’s version of the story which is occupation, the text will directly go to protecting its own version.
The House of Fire
“ The First Place – The First Poem”
By: Ali Al-Khalili
The autobiography in the House of Fire goes far beyond the personal autobiography of Ali Al-Khalili, the writer, to turn into a vivid biography of Nablus, the city, and the dramatic changes which happened between 1943-1962 covering twenty years which were probably the richest and most confusing in contemporary Palestinian history involving a long Palestinian journey through the last century.
The strength of the autobiography lies in the writer’s ability to simulate the daily life of Nablus, follow people’s movement in and about their special place, particularly the artisans’ group to whom his family belonged by reason of his father’s profession as a baker who makes muffins in a conservative environment within the wall of the old city,the “Kasbah”. The “tale” moves forward through three main terminals: the Bakery, the Sophists’ Corner and Al-Mograbi’s Library while the narrator watches the whole city through a child’s eye,“the baker’s boy” who wanders in the city carrying the muffins’ board moving between houses, people and narrow alleys like a candid camera. The boy roams in the Kasbah carrying his muffins from Tuqan’s house, the Artisans’ Steps, poor and wealthy homes thoroughly monitoring the architectural beauty in Palestine, the class differences between the different social strata, and observing the introduction into the popular beliefs not as a parallel or isolated margin but as a basic part in the text’s structure.
There is a robust borrowing from the place’s assets and loads in the biography, as well as subtle recollections of life terminals in the Kasbah of those years: the Women’s Bath, the Men’s Bath,building tools for daily use, life in the bakery’s “Hole”, Popular Artisans’ Quarters, Al-Mograbi’s Library, the Sophists’ Corner, their tales and celebrations, Ramadan, the Soap Factories, the School, the refugees’ arrival from town’s rims, reflections of the Palestinian Al-Nakba on the socio-economic structure and the political changes that rocked the sky of Palestine. All this crowded in a noticeable manner where the Dervishes gather at night to commemorate the Prophet’s Birthday at a time close to the arrival of the existentialist thoughts, the Arab poem’s questions as regards the shadows of the Nasheeds and Tawasheeh (chants and Andalusian type of songs ) up to the opening of Nablus public library which resembled a sudden window opened onto an other planet while the boy wanders watching with fascination and surrounded by people’s professions, their weariness and sweeping desire for writing.
Ali Al-Khalili could in his House of Fire visit a zone almost forgotten in the Palestinian writing through offering such an early youth biography without losing the dramatic thread which emanates from cruel life conditions, and following up on the family’s traces back to the turn of the century, the Ottoman wars, execution platforms and the memories of those convicted.
Life sound really pulsating in the House of Fire as introduced by Ali Al-Khalili in a most honest aesthetical narrative with a huge load of knowledge.
The book : House of Fire
Dar Al-Shorouq for Publishing and Distribution – Ramallah
240 medium – sized pages
Memoirs of a Chicken
Dr. Ishaq Mousa Al- Husseini
Dar Al-Ma’aref – Cairo -1943
The novel draws its importance and worthiness to be revisited from the fact that it was written and published as part “IQRA’ ”, the widest read and distributed series in the Arab world in 1943 which was the summit year in the 2nd world war and the peak of Jewish immigration to Palestine. Though classified as symbolic literature, the novel talks about the land and people of Palestine. Therefore in the introduction he wrote to the novel, Taha Hussein, the Dean of Arab Literature, called that chicken Palestinian chicken.
Symbolic writers usually claim that they translate to us animals tongue. In his introduction to the reader,Husseini said: “ In fact, I translate to you what I have been inspired by them “. As a distinguished reader (critic ), Taha Hussein replied saying: “ I wonder who translated who!! Did Ishaq Husseini translate the chicken or did the chicken translate Husseini?” . Taha Hussein has had replied before that in this kind of literature,we get animals to express “ what we can not express when we portray our lives and describe our defects and their medications”.
Did the chicken study sociology and give lectures ( as seen by Taha Hussein)? Did it study political affairs and offered solutions ( as seen by some of his Palestinian contemporaries?”. If the question is still raised up to date, we would say that through the chicken, Dr. Ishaq Al-Husseini was studying the issues of political sociology, specially that a new discipline called Political Sociology had started to be studied in France in the sixties of the twentieth century – as Ibrahim Abrash said in his book called “Political Sociology”.pp11
In pp 11, the reader would think that starts the journey socially, the immigration of the peasants to the city, in particular. Quoting his chicken, he would say “ I used to see the field of life very wide when I was in my old house ; the air was free but I was suffering from hardship and lack of food”.When the writer portrays the cruelty of her ex-house wife and how she uprooted her from her house(pp12), the political features emerge, and the reader would imagine that the chicken was a Jew whom the Zionist movement displaced her from Europe to Palestine where she would be fed with excessive generosity (13). Soon the writer would lead the reader once again to the sociology zone where he would deal with the advantages of the peasant’s life in the city, polygamy, praising men’s predominance over women,and call for accepting the status quo when he said (pp17) in the chicken’s tongue: “ Let’s take life as it is if we want to enjoy peace of mind “. A few pages later , politics looks over revealing its sharp teeth. As soon as chickens celebrate ( in a gesture perhaps to emancipation from Turkish colonialism), yet an other fearful enemy lands, not knowing where it came from. Most probably, the writer there was portraying the Arab rulers in general and Sheriff Hussein in particular as the cock who left his chickens confronting that enemy without leaving for them any tools with which to defend themselves.
In page 45, the writer tackled the differences between the various groups emphasizing their seriousness,and how necessary it was for the vanguards to attempt to mend the crack that befell the national unity. The wise chicken sees the setting of a good example as the optimal means and solution for the predicament. Said she: “ If you want to spread virtue and suppress vice, let that be exemplified in emergence before other creatures as virtuous” (pp48).
The writer occasionally uses direct political terminology. On the tongue of the rational chicken addressing other chickens, he says: “ While we now face the threat of invasion and aggression, if you return to your old disagreements and feuds, the enemy would crack down on us mercilessly and ruthlessly, but if you cling to the rope of love and concurrence, you would then repulse the early signs of decadence”(pp59).
On the tongue of his chicken, the writer rejects out of hand the saying that pain, not love, is which unites the hearts (pp61).
The writer points to the fierce resistance which the exhausted chicken showed in the face of the coming stranger when she felt the threat against her little chicks. Husseini’s moderate chicken, however, resorts to making peace with the coming stranger who arrived from other conflict zones ( he perhaps meant the Jews) and sympathizes with her suffering in her old house there where “material cruelty never subsides or shows mercy”(pp74).The “ moderate” chicken could “normalize” relations between the coming stranger and the “hennery’s” residents.
The writer returns to general human issues as he indicates to the total similarity and equality between all “the chickens” in their first days, but disparity would later arise on the bases of color, race or power.The moderate chicken then attempts to reconcile the feuding groups but to no avail. When they get starved, she advises them to travel abroad to the vast land of God so as not to quarrel with the well off, as if Husseini (himself a Jerusalemite)hints to the immigration of Palestinians from Jerusalem to the Americas (North and South Americas). When corruption appears in society, Husseini, viewing in the eyes of his chicken, sees that “ the new generation will follow suit of the older generation, and will in fact outdo it in its wrong doings”.(pp100)
The sweeping Jewish immigration then comes in page 139 when the “hennery’s” residents were surprised with the foreign creatures occupying the place. One of the occupiers attempted to re-assure the “hennery’s’ residents by saying : “ we are creatures like you ; we were carried to this shelter”. The writer hints to the conflict between the Zionist organizations who unite only against the “hennery’s” owners. The strangers trespass the line when they chose the best part of the shelter and took it away. In fact, their superior insulted the shelter’s leader when he wondered:” does the like of you has any principles to start from?” (pp143)
When the chickens’ leader “could take no more”, he almost attacked the strangers’ superior. At this moment, the moderate chicken circles the moderate’s neck with her arm to contain her and made her give up. The leader told the moderate chicken: “we have to choose between two things : either we relinquish our shelter or cling to it and drive the strangers out of it ”(pp151).The moderate chicken,however, refuses to use force and suggests instead to wage a propaganda war only to preach to all creatures to comply to the legal right alone”. (pp153)
Thus, the chickens and their leader were displaced. As the novel was written five years before Al-Nakba, we could see that it was predictive of the upcoming events reminding us of Ibrahim Tuqan’s poem in which he criticized the Palestinian performance and expected that events would lead to immigration and to the great tragedy. Therefore, he wrote a poem in the same year the novel was written saying:
Oh people! Your enemy is not one who could be soft or merciful
Oh people! Evacuation is the only choice before you, so pack up.
Acre and the Kings
Ahmad Rafiq Awad – Beit Al-Maqdes for Publishing and Distribution
Acre and the Kings is the sixth and most important novel written by Ahmad Rafiq Awad, and is his second historical novel preceded by his “Al-Qormoty” in its first edition 2001 and its second edition 2003. Though Al-Qormoty was a good novel which won the Jordanian state prize, I have chosen his Acre and the Kings because it tackles Palestinian events, studies a period full of contradictions and casts light on the defeat of the so-called “victorious leader” to touch upon the early signs and introductions to the defeat. The novel also dives deep into people’s skin at war times, and makes indirect projections on the Arab position in general and the Palestinian situation in particular.
The writer divided his novel into nine chapters: Bin Jubair, Qaraqosh, Bin Shaddad, Juana, Seif Eddin Ali Bin Ahmad Al-Mashtoub, Omer Al-Zain, Rashid Bin Sinan, King Richard and the renews of the Rev. Judge. The chapters proceed and correlate with each other not only because of the single period in which events happened but also through the interrelations between its characters. The writer did not assume the position of a narrator except in the three chapters of: Qaraqosh, Seif Eddin and King Richard. In the other six chapters, their characters were made to narrate their events. When he talked on the tongue of one character, the writer would embody its style and vocabulary ; he squeezes the language and employs intricacy in Bin Jubair and the Rev. Judge.
The novel gives due rights to characters whether that was in their favor or the opposite. In page 7, the writer emphasizes on the tongue of Bin Jubair (1145-1217) that Imam Ahmad Al-Gazali (died 1111 A.D) had laid the foundations for Ethics in his book “Revival of Religious Sciences” which Bin Jubair was carrying with him on board.It is worthwhile to say that Mohammad Abed Al-Jaberi, an Arab contemporary thinker, re-asserted the same theme in his recent book called “ The Ethical Arab Mind”. In chapter about Qaraqosh, that Roman effeminate figure whose opponents accused of all kinds of vices, and described as silly, Saladin appoints him as governor of Acre. Acreans were told stories about their new governor which made them expect the worse of a white Roman effeminate governor.
However, they were surprised with his serenity, certain silence, marvelous calm and his desire to defend the town and renovate its collapsing walls.”(pp49)
Any way, despite the legendary image of Saladin as a triumphant leader the besieges Acre fell while besieging its siege. The Crusaders stormed and sacked the city while his camp was only a few miles away. Though historians and writers overlook the Kurdish identity of Saladin and only point to his Islamic belief or even try to characterize him as an Arab, Ahmad Rafiq Awad gives his Kurdish identity its due respect starting from his early upbringing to the Kurdish customs and traditions (pp81).Saladin was not admired by all commanders. In fact, some of them such as the Mashtoub though very respectful of Saladin and extremely obedient to his orders, accused Saladin of reluctance that tempted the crusading French.(pp135)
The writer maintains his realistic look towards the values. Though war teaches us of the worst in us, forces us to do the worst that we can and though it is extraordinary, yet forms the criterion of our ordinary life (pp64). The writer highlights an aspect of Saladin’s character which rejects to involve children in acts of war both practically and psychologically. He single for special mention the incident when the French POW’s were brought in, Saladin stopped his little children from killing them because he did not want children to “underestimate blood”; Saladin gave up besieging the Castle of “Izaz” because a child girl of Nuriddin family asked him to do that at the Eid ( a moslem holiday).(pp82)
The writer sounds like recalling the memory of Bin Jubair and Juana, wife of Sicily’s king and England’s king’s sister to re-affirm the saying that the Arabs were masters in sciences,farming and industry (pp33 and 102). He also recalls Bin Shaddad (1145-1234) to relate from him (pp74) that “ The people of guarded Palestine are masters of agriculture and plantation, are the most speedy and most able of all peoples to turn the terrains into singing vivid gardens which I had never seen ever since my birth in Mosul , in Baghdad where I studied or in any of the too many civilized center I have ever been to in my life”. He probably preempts the Zionist propaganda that Palestine prior to the Zionist invasion was barren lands and that the Palestinians wee only traveling Bedouins .
As for the projections, they resemble to a great extent those of Radwa Ashour in her Granada’s Triad in the sense that they were noticeable and impressive though indirect. Saladin, known for giving priority to negotiations, known for not fighting his enemy unless negotiations were completely exhausted, said as told by Bin Shaddad, the historian (pp146) : “ Those French who wanted land without is owners were self deceived that they were most right and powerful …Dialogue and negotiations can not be conducted with one who does not see you, who does not recognize you or one who does not recognize your right to live”( pp91). The writer holds the same view on the tongue of Bin Ahmad Mashtoub (pp146): “ The French came to settle these lands, not to leave them ; they breed here, here they burry their dead too and they believe that they are the most entitled to these lands’ ownership”.
The siege of Acre in 1191 A.D is not quite different from the siege of Beirut in 1982. The former was besieged by “ thirty nine European kings and princes who came to rescue Tomb of Christ ” , while the latter was besieged by an Israeli army made up from immigrants from over thirty nine nations who came to rescue Jesus’ Galilee. As the two sieges were similar, more so were the defenders “sons of the country’s cities like Acre, Saffouria and Al-Zeeb who suffered for long decades from foreign rule and were prepared to offer the last drop of their blood and sweat so that the city would not fall in the hands of the foreigner” (pp152). Bin Shaddad relates of the princes around Saladin during the siege that they were too demanding and very grumbling as some of them wanted a wider sector of feudal land, while other princes challenged others’ claims in their lands and others still wanted to do business with the French”. All that took place with Saladin, the leader, showing “extreme patience and deep composure and met all with his smiling satisfied face and firm heart.” (pp98)…while “ordinary people who you would find in every city were prepared to stand fast for ever as long as that was for the sake of Allah, for the sake of courage, bravery and rejection of surrendering to the foreigner”(pp152).
The fall of Beirut does not differ from the fall of Acre eight centuries earlier. The Rev. Judge relates of the Just King, Saladin’s brother and chief of his intelligence, that he said: “Since fighting has stopped and the army would move to Shafa Amre away from Acre, we could start a new war of a different kind” (pp261). What happened in the two Beirut suburbs (Sabra and Shatila ) after a few days of their fall (17.09.1982) was similar to what happened in Acre a few days after its fall (20.08.1191) when the English king arrived at the Ayyadyeh Hill (the suburb where Saladin had his headquarters ) with his soldiers dragging three thousand Moslem POW’s. Under the beating of drums and blowing of horns, “F.” ordered the swords to behead the prisoners. He looked at the blood which covered he Ayyadyeh hill, took a deep breath from Acre’s air and said: “ Now I could say we won victory!!!!!”
The novel is a dialogue between two societies ; the dialogue was hot at certain times and lukewarm at others. Al-Mutawakel Taha, an important poet and critic, says about it: “ it is the novel about the clash of civilization between two dissimilar never converging worlds”. I second his saying that “ religion is an other victim of the war launched by the west in the middle ages against our Arab and Moslem world”. It is possible to say that the position of religion at the time does not differ from its position in the wars launched against us by the Zionist movement since the early twentieth century. Wars, as Al-Mutawakel says “ need casus belli …but in the course of time a suitable expedience is sought so as to forget the casus belli. That is all about wars.”
By: Abdul Karim Al-Sab’awi
2nd edition –Dar Al-Nawras for Publishing, Gaza-1997
Phoenix is the first novel of Canaan’s Land triad. Its first edition was published by Sabil for Publishing in Melbourne, Australia 1989 and won Jubran’s prize. It was followed by The “ Faithful Mate” published by Dar Al-Nawras in Gaza 1997.Finally, the last in the triad was “The Ghoul” published again by Al-Nawras in Gaza 1999.
The triad tells the history of Gaza and all that has to do with it starting with Ahmad Pasha Al-Jazzar’s rule until the failure of the great Palestinian revolt 1939 i.e over a period of three centuries. Most events in the triad are real except for some fictitious names.
Events in The Phoenix end in the interception of Napoleon’s raid on Acre and his subsequent defeat 1799. The title borrowed his novel’s title from Champillion’s ( an archeologist accompanying Napoleon’s campaign ) answer when asked about Gaza: “ No earthquake, no epidemic and no flood could kill it. Every time it would come out of dust alive reborn as a phoenix ” (pp194).
We may find an interpretation to the reason why the triad had been given this title of Canaan’s Land in what Champillion said translating a Pharaonic- language weed inscription found at Tal-Al-Ojoul south of Gaza. The weed reads: “ Phoenicians masters of trade, the Hexus were shepherds but we, sons of Gaza, were repellants of invaders. A Canaanite could not have told for certain “how many times he used his sickle as a sword or how many times he used his sword as a sickle”(pp231).
In his history of Gaza, Al-Sab’awi did not try to draw an all-time bright picture of Gaza and its population. Rather, he drew the truth about Gaza from history adding a little imagination and creativeness.Like the population of other Palestinian cities, or Arab cities indeed or even other cities in the world at large, Gaza included the understanding type, the silly, thieves, the honest ones, the dissolute, the sanctimonious saints, the dirty, the clean, the militants and the agents. It is a city of its age though this implied a judgment and a projection on what Palestine is currently living through. Gazan society is a male –biased society par excellence: a society of polygamy where a girl is destined to marry her cousin “even if he was a heap of bones in a cheap leather basket ” ( pp46) and “ brothers of the neighborhood test their manhood by oppressing their sisters” (pp47). Artist Shahwan recall his father’s saying : “ a woman in her prayers asks Allah to give her only a husband, and if Allah did give her one, she would hen ask her husband to bring her everything she wished”(117). A husband, in his turn, would want children to use as manpower for production(pp129).
Al-Sab’awi attempted to describe the economic and artisan life in Gaza (pp16,153). He also attempted to describe Gazan traditions of marriage, banqueting, wedding’s cash gifts (pp50-53) and snoring like the snores of Kabeer Al-Btoush (pp53), of Salem (pp104) and of Abu Ghoash (pp237). Al-Sab’awi would not miss in this respect to point to the Gazan kitchen, typical meals and delicacies (pp152) as well as some habits which are critically highlighted.He reserved four pages (pp105-108) to portray how inhuman slavery is. He talked about corruption among some people including judges. If a ruler was corrupt, the subjects would inevitably become corrupt too. Not every one,however, as there is always that position aberration such as Sheikh Taj-uddin Al-Kharroubi and his followers, Younis and his in-laws and many other ordinary people.Khadra represented a symbol of social decadence because Gazans had allowed Al-Jazzar’s soldiers to rape her and turned into a curse against them (pp71). Khadra would disappear only to turn up again (pp92,171,172).Gazans ask for rain in their prayers but ask Sheikh Hayyar to stop the torrents. The Sheikh, however could not save his grave when it was swept by torrents (pp131). Even when they heard of the advent of the French troops, their judge suggested that the sophists beat their castanets to drive them away in disgrace without the need to fight them. (pp187)
Among the wisdoms which Al-Sab’awi put in the mouth of Khadra, the victim: “ the neighborhood’s people have become equal in ungratefulness after they were equal in disgrace and humiliation; there is no place for prestige when every one touches the bottom ”(pp27). Salem, the mean, who decided to succeed his uncle when the latter resigned as sheikh of the neighborhood under occupation, wanted to marry his obstinate cousin, Fatima, a hero’s widow, and sought to control her property, loudly laughed saying :” all birds in one stone”, also died of black death and was buried in a hole where soil and stones were dropped on him. Hasan Al-Salamin, a friend of his, commented (pp221): “ all stones now hit one bird”.On Younis’s tongue (pp186), the writer resembled those who escaped their threatened country as rats which were inevitably doomed. In page 223, the writer drew a picture of Al-Zahhar who earned a fortune selling all the coffins he had in stock that “they did find a coffin for himself when he died, and therefore rapped him up with his dress”. Hboush, who took the profession of reciting religious verses on the dead, was happy of the black death toll
And set up a tent at cemetery, whispered his favorite slogan in his wife’s ear “ stick to where you earn your living”. Next day, they found his dead body in the tent. In page 232, we find pictures of a scene never drawn by an artist of Younis, the martyr, riding his horse on his way back from grave to tell his wife: “ Allah offered me the nymphs but I said unto Him : You said in the Divinely Revelation : Do not forget your lot in life. How could I forget Fatima, my lot.? Allah said : Younis ! go bring her”.
Sheikh Taj uddin Al-Kharroubi incarnated the political attitudes of the writer, Al-Sab’awi. Though the Sheikh was put in prison by his unjust ruler, nevertheless, he fought by the side of his jailor against the occupiers who set him free to regain his freedom. Having been captured by Napoleon, he told him :“ you set me free from the small prison to the big prison”. “How can a man be free in a slaved country?!”. When Napoleon said that God made him defeat the unjust Turks, Al-Sab’awi on Kharroubi’s tongue said:” That was a fight between two wrongs where the strong wrong vanquished the weak wrong” (229).Answering Napoleon the Sheikh said : “ Some are waiting you to leave so that they can come in …we will fight them like we fought you..” (pp230).
Despite the high- pitched rhetoric towards struggle and steadfastness before the occupying forces, despite his ridicule of the misuse of the Gracious verse : “ If they opt for peace, then opt you for peace ” considering that an act of villainy and surrender (pp197), Al-Sab’awi does not call for war or death at all.Said he on the tongue of Apple Neighborhood’s Sheikh (pp157): “ war is a curse, war is hell ; they committed killings and destruction when they entered our villages and we did like them when we entered theirs. He saw that war shows the worst in human beings. Here is the leader of the French revolution,advocate of human rights, give his orders to kill four thousand prisoners upon leaving the walls of Acre (pp204).
In his depiction of characters, the writer sounds like saying that virtue is a generic positive value in all walks of life, and vice is a generic negative value in all walks of life too:
Younis was generous, brave and highly ethical. When he was young he befriended or even made a brother of his slave Jawhar who was of the same age. Their relationship continued until he emancipated him to be able to marry as a free man (pp115). He risks his life to free Sheikh Taj uddin from prison but when carried away by his courage to attack the French on his horse , he got killed by an artillery shell that turned him to pieces(pp192). He kept faithful to his wife after death and was not tempted by paradise’s women(pp232).
Judge Ma’rouf was an opportunist swindler, and Fayed the butcher was claiming to be the awaited Mahdi turned against him, cajoled the French occupiers and together with Sarah cooked for them. In his Friday speech at the mosque, he prayed for Napoleon’s victory (pp208) and therefore was assassinated by the fedayeen ( militants) (pp209).
Salem ,a liar who bushwhacked Khadra’s father, plotted with Sheikh of Sheikhs to enable the soldiers of raping her and cajoled the French to take the position of sheikh from his uncle.
Nathmi Effendi was known to be one Al-Jazzar’s watchdogs would naturally turn into one for the French occupiers.
Al-Jazzar, the unjust ruler in time of peace and war executed on the stake the Pasha of Acre businessmen for no reason but to take over his money (pp81).He burned all his women because one of them had an affair with one of his slaves (pp135).After the French were repelled from Acre, he ordered killing all military patrols which showed abstained from defending the city,and “hanged their heads on the wall so that no one after them would ever think of escaping” (pp220).
The Neighing of Distances
By: Laila Al-Atrash – Dar Sharqiyyat for Publishing and Distrution
This is the fourth of Laila Al-Atrash’s novels preceded by “ Five- Seasons Woman” -1990, “ Sunrising Westwards” -1998 and “Two Nights and a Woman’s Shadow” -1998.
I have chosen this novel because apart from its being a romantic novel which depicts the suffering of alienation and the fears of return, it speaks on the tongue of the basic hero in the novel ( that style which Ahlam Mistganmi in her novel of “The Body’s Memory ” was famous for ). The novel also storms two restricted areas for men and prohibited for women, namely politics and sex. In page ten, the novel on the tongue of the narrating hero “ my tale is based on the inevitable success triad of fame,sex and repugnant politics”. Surprisingly enough to re-affirm her excellence, the writer was more direct in the subject of sex than in politics. The narrator says(pp24): “ Men link their predominance over women to their masculine potency, here my down dropping betrays me”. In page 29, he says : “ My sexual impotency attacks me after my virginity. I try positions which I either saw or read in English which I master”. In his novel about his Italian girl friend which he met in London, he says: “ I exercised patience when my erection betrayed me and I handled it with understanding”( pp66). From his adolescence, he recalls his peeping with Hammoud Al-Washili through the partially open doors or cracks not filled ” (pp77)….And our clothes began to get dirty as a result of the heat and elasticity of night liquids ”. The narrator recalls memory of his friend Hammoud whom Sonia favored. In page (79), he said : “My sight stoped at the point of lifting his dress up to where his legs met like some one spreading a ruler before him…I hated what I saw …. Sonia stood between us, and the comparison obsessed me ”. The writer focuses on the hero’s complex of the sexual collapse which he suffered when he was “forced” to accompany.
His colleague Hammoud Al-Washili who raped or tried to rape a poor woman sleeping with her kids. It catches one’s attention that she mentioned the story not by hinting but dared to speak directly. On the tongue of the narrating hero she says(pp122): “Does that dissolute know that he usurped my competency when I poured it warm wet to soak my legs” when the woman “ was patiently waiting for her husband only for her disability to be attacked by a stranger while I stood there reluctant and scared with that wet covering my legs” (pp169).
Perhaps it was difficult for the writer to relate in a woman’s tongue of men’s erection and relaxation cases. Therefore, she resorted to put the narration at a man’s tongue so to make possible to disclose these matters. This is made most likely for me because they come at the end of the novel, but she would talk in her own tongue when dealing with general women’s issues.
For the events of her novel, Laila Al-Atrash invented unreal places perhaps to be able to attribute them to any Arab country except Syria and Egypt which she mentioned by name. The reader may recall Jordan or Palestine as Jadida and Ghabera or perhaps Southern and Northern Yemen and he may think that Beit Janan was Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or even Lybia.
The Narrator holds many names ; in addition to the name Saleh, he was “Nimer Al-Yousufi, a commentator at the Arabs’ Voice, and was Muhsin Al-Zain in Damascus and Aleppo. He held several passports : of Ghabera and Jadida and of Beit Janan. He could be every Arab or a Palestinian wandering in the Arab countries owning all that surrounds him or alien to him at the same time. At the end of the novel he says(pp195): “ All airports of alienation are similar ; Ghabera then Beit Janan keeps chasing me and all the cities of coercive travel lose their special beauty and difference”. Laila Al-Atrash then describes the way he was kicked away from the door of the newspaper of which he used to be editor in-chief (pp43), and the president tells him that Al-Zayed wanted to withdraw his citizenship and drive him out of Beit Janan.He kissed the head of the president twice expressing his fear for his children and his wife which made the president allow him to stay only as university teacher (pp62) where students insult him accusing him of being a spy and refuse to attend his lectures (pp141). Saleh finds out that he is without roots in Beit Janan despite his long and strong relationship with the president.Here, he is considered a disobedient fellow who does not honor his hosts,and bites the hand extending to give him a boon (pp182).All that was because he wrote an article in Al-risalah newspaper over which he presides demanding Beit Janan to be rational in the borders issue between Beit Janan where he lives a naturalized citizen and Ghabera where he comes from. Fearing to be sent back to his country Ghabera where the prime minister will be waiting for his abuse. Hammoud Al-Washili, his colleague, who was the cause of his sexual, political and social impotence endures beating and breaking his arm at the hands of “ a tribal grouping and knot that support each other whether fairly or unfairly” (pp187).
Saleh wished that he could have that courage of the president’s niece who eloped with her Asian servant to marry him in spite of the power of her tribe’s and state’s men.When still rapped up with plaster, he felt a hidden sympathy linking him to a girl whom he does not know but one who the chasers’ injustice joined them together (pp190). He kept searching for her news. Saleh waited long in his house before the telephone rang and the president’s voice tells him that a presidential decree would be issued soon appointing him as ambassador of Beit Janan to Geneva.
Laila al-Atrash does not feel fed up to keep reminding her readers that she did not name her novel “ The neighing of Distances ” out of luxurious fantasy but because the neighing and distances appear in every and each corner of the novel.The horses of distances in page 11 keep neighing, chasing and besieging the narrator who trembles for “the neighing of the distances”. Distances neigh in page 18 with “visions and dreams ”. The memories of two women whom the narrator knew “neigh always alive in the memory’s distances” (pp38). The old unsettled account between the narrator and Hammoud Al-Washili, the hostile friend,“neighs in the duet of distances, exiles and road ramifications “(pp47). In the narrator’s view, the question is also a neighing extending along the distances of days”(pp104) while he feels his mother’s smell neighing through the distances”(pp110). Saleh imagines a woman whose memory neighs throughout the distances”(pp111).Expressing the president’s niece’s attraction towards her Asian servant, the writer says (pp188): “ Distances neigh between the master and his servant with the desire to cut them short (meaning distances)”. In his book called “ the Rebellion of the Female” (pp47), Nazih Abu Nidal, a critic, says: “ The writer here reads the defect of men through the condition of their historical and social formation, not merely because of their being males who oppress women. Oppressed women trespass their themselves towards the future, while the defective men re-read themselves and their memories since the Ghabera so as to get liberated in reality”.
A River Bathing in a Lake
By: Yahya Yakhlof – Dar Al-Shorouq for Publishing and Distribution
Yahya Yakhlof wrote ten literary works, six of them were novels. I have chosen this novel called A River Bathing in a Lake because it represents a work returning from the Diaspora: The Lybian desert, Algeria, Port Sudan or Tunisia. The writer converses with his concerns and the symbols of life which are created through death to revive home nostalgia while at home “which still needs to be restored”..
If Abu Al-Ala’ Al-Ma’arri was held in a double prison : Blindness and real prison, then it is possible to say that Yakhlof lived in a double exile : his forceful deportation at the hands of the Jews together with his father to what remained of Palestine after Al-Nakba, and the 1967 defeat when they again forced him to leave to the other bank of River Jordan. He left his youth “ at the Masyoun hill in Ramallah ” without accompanying him to the land of alienation and exile. (pp7). Since then, rarely was he caught red handed with “joy” (pp44).If he ever smiled, then it was against his wish and in spite of him (pp56). In exile he was addict to the absence of face which longed for (pp13). He spent a log time of his life waiting (pp25) for arrival of that person who is similar to Hero Aundo,the Japanese soldier who kept believing for long years that his leadership’s declaration of surrender and the end of the 1st War was only a trick made by enemies to control more land and military positions.
Which declaration did Yakhlof mean ? Was it UN declaration (No. 62 issued on 16.11.1948) ending the 1st Arab –Israeli war, which provided for “establishing a permanent truce throughout Palestine” and drew its lines later be called the Green line or 1967 borders? Or did he mean the declaration of the “Oslo Accords” which provided for shifting, through direct negotiations, to permanent peace in Palestine ?.
After eight years in hiding, Aundo “wished that those in the leadership had sent him new of the battle’s events ” (pp20). After eight years,the peers of the sheikh who hosted Yakhlof in his house in Gaza had started resistance against the renewed Israeli invasion. It is probable that Aundo realized that his leadership surrendered and that the war had ended but he refused to recognize that because by then, he would turn into “a man without cause” (pp37).
Yakhlof arrived in his home, the West Bank, where “tourist groups, occupation soldiers, dirty settlers and street venders ” were the scene of the day( pp37).He arrived in home of Gaza where “ service taxis, traffic police, flying flags, wall graffito and slogans : Fateh –Hamas –the Red Eagle , dusty side walks, piles of garbage and papers flying in the air. Home sweet home, of flesh and blood but one which is deeply wounded ….”(pp6). Though he returned, he stood there lost in his home streets feeling alienated and having a desire to cry (pp26).Said he in page 46 “What liberty do we have in this siege”. When he arrived in his home Samakh, Yakhlof wondered “ Is it really Samakh ? Was this what I had long waited for and expected to meet? The place did not look familiar to me ” (pp99).This is exactly similar to what Edward Said said when he visited Jerusalem after long absence. On the shore of his lake in which the river bathed, Yakhlof said (pp116): “ I felt like a sailor who left his boat, stick his face against the window pane and announced that he was defeated”.
Writing about his return, Yakhlof recalls “Aundo’s” return (pp48) who belonged to the Hot war era, a time different from ours ….found himself a stranger at home.. Psych-therapists were at loss persuading him to adapt to the new reality …It was expected (pp52) that an UN organization for social development nominates him for a course held in the Palestinian self-rule territories to enable him to adjust and integrate”. At the end of his trip to Samakh, Aundo entered a cave and Yakhlof tries to follow suit (pp142) but collided with the cave’s gate and cut his forehead. While writing , Yakhlof also recalls the “Onion Basement” (pp40) which was frequented by those “ whose feelings were fossilized, their hearts hardened and their sense of sadness or compassion lost. …They did not eat onion but only peeled it by knives so that their eyes may emit tears…And though those tears were artificial, they made them feel like humans ” (pp40)
Although all the members of the narrator’s family are still living in exiles, he decided to defeat the exile, and made is best efforts so as not to feel it (pp21).He decided to return even if he could not do anything here ; at least he would die like his uncle. As his mother once said : “a deer would feel its approaching death, and therefore goes to the place it loves to die that beautiful death away from people’s eyes, so that nobody would see it dying”(pp22).
On the way to the lake where the river bathed, they were three : an expatriate holding US passport coming back in a home visit, a PLO top staff returning home under Oslo Accord and woman citizen who stayed at home under occupation (pp45). Perhaps there was a kind of projection when the writer made the American drive while the Returnee sat beside and the woman in the back seat, specially that (in page 57) he sat in the back seat when he disagreed with the American leaving the seat beside the driver for Majd, the woman. Perhaps that was not done on purpose!! The incident tempted me that Akram’s American citizenship was made intentionally by the writer. In page 94, on Majd’s tongue, the writer told a Jew who refused to let them sleep over the night in Samakh that “ Akram, his friend, holds a US passport and has the right to move and reside in Israel”. A Jewish photographer then told them that the Jewish policeman at the hospital’s gate had said :“ Jews could enter but the Arabs no and Mr. Akram alone could go in because he carried a US passport”.
Yakhlof returned under Oslo accords but would it be possible to normalize and co-exist with Jews?. Three Palestinians met. There was majd who lived under occupation and who was skeptic of that eventuality. There was Akram ( influenced perhaps by the American culture) who was almost certain of that possibility and who took come over despite all difficulties to meet Bertha Aharon, the Lido dancer, Faris Al-Faris’s lover , symbol of co-existence and image of the possible future (pp122) Together with, he would issue a call for peace.The returnee kept silent and had illusions that he could retrieve his uncle’s dead body from the morgue’s frig to burry him in the land he loved and could perhaps burry with him his revenge.
How did things go?
Bertha (symbol of co-existence) who, before Israel was established, was a tall pretty woman whom Yafa’s effendies and Tel Aviv’s Khawajas’ (Arabs and Jews) courted was found to be an old woman who “could not hear or speak in addition to her blurred vision” (pp125). Bertha who later joined Faris Al-Faris in his exile and lived with him under a tent for a while was seen receiving the golden ring (the souvenir of co-existence) from Akram,Faris’s nephew to put it away without a word. There was no dialogue of any sort but only disappointment (pp126).
Israel takes advantage of its fragile security to use excessive force and poison minds with rumors and myths. As soon as it discovered a small alligator of a kids’ toy’s size, it moved its troops and armored vehicles, spread in its media that the emergence of the alligator on its land was a geological phenomenon connected with an earthquake at Aqaba bay which made River Jordan change its course that, instead of flowing from north to south, the river flew from south to north,i.e stemming from the Dead Sea and flowing into the north Lake and Lebanese mountains “ (pp65). Panic tainted all its decisions, It prevented everyone (including American Akram ) from seeing Yakhlof’s uncle, the martyr kept in the hospital’s frig. He could not retrieve his uncle’s dead body to burry him where he wanted. Akram too could not return his uncle’s ring in the way he wished.
The result was that even the American who came over from the farthest place on earth in quest of co-existence had ended up.at the novel’s end (pp144) crying in the Israeli soldier’s face : “ The bomb is inside my chest … deep in me …watch out ! it might explode at any time”.
Memory Made Naked
By As’ad Al-As’ad, Bait Al-Maqdes for Publishing and Distribution- Ramallah
“Zaid”, hero of “As’ad Al-As’ad’s” novel, does not feature the characteristics of the common or agreed –upon hero prevalent in the Palestinian creative works although the events through which he moves about suggests the notion of “ heroism “ and tempts one to lean on ready- made references which are within the reach of both the writer and the reader together.
“Zaid” could almost be a silent witness to a perfect and overwhelming context penetrating Palestinian daily life through out the long years of occupation to the West Bank, particularly “Ramallah”.
The venue, Ramallah,is clear and friendly in “Memory Made Naked”,which constitutes an advanced social proposal in Palestine, being an open city capable of accepting a varying social patterns and of arranging them in a away enabling them to breath.
One could also notice here a flashy hint to open humanistic relationship drawing on the techniques of political action in Palestine, its plurality and variety of its spectrum from Marxism to Fundamentalism.
The writer chose prison as a starting signal for his novel ; the political arrest which draws on references such as “steadfastness”, “solidity” and “purity” in the cause of confronting occupation, its power and resourcefulness. However, it takes a direct turn away from the main open and well-lit direction to move towards dark shadow areas of changing features, not roles, when he uncovers the scene of a “collaborator’s” death in prison, whom the detainees called “ little birds”. The killing was very a cruel action preceded by a trial and confession by the “little bird” ; a trial which justice surrounded with questions, and a confession resulting from trying torturing practiced by the prisoners themselves on another prisoner.
The cruelty of occupation and its forcefulness and shrewdness was too perfectly reflected on those detainees to the point that they granted themselves exclusive rights to try a comrade, torture him, sentence him to death and execute the verdict within an accurate, perfect and decisive system of task distribution.
“Zaid”, the novel’s hero and silent observer loaded with his own obsessions and haunted with a delicate thread of guilt because he was the reason behind his comrade’s, Salim, arrest and sentence to 15 -year imprisonment ….would wish at the first moment that the killed “little bird” be that whom he trapped but, a little later,he would back down while listening to the interrogation technique used on “collaborators”,which differed a great deal from that used by occupation.
Silence is a way to cover up reluctance which controls “Zaid” and chases him even in his little personal choices, his relationship with “Rabab”, his family, his private business and his desires which transformed the shop into a bookstore.
The novel is a narrative of that typical classical journey of a young Palestinian who infiltrates the borders at the beginning of occupation crossing River Jordan to Jericho, Ramallah, prison , returning to political action and then to deportation as we stop while the soldiers move him from the helicopter northwards.
The writer makes an ambitious attempt to monitor the occupation times in a Palestinian city, in accelerated transformation whose hero is an educated political activist who keeps raising his questions about a changing reality.
There is no desire or capacity for giving answers here ; this is perhaps why the novel returned to the first point in the last scene when he found himself out of place but without a clear possibility for making any progress which looks as if the circle was closed once again.
* As’ad Al-As’ad
*Memory Made Naked – A Novel
*1st edition 2003
*Bait Al-Maqdes for Publishing and Distribution- Ramallah
*180 medium -size pages
© 2007 - UNESCO