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Writing Palestine

November 2006

Palestine-a borderless landscape of people, memory, conflict, resilience, and vision-this month locates itself in Words Without Borders, as contemporary Palestinian writers address and establish the multiple senses of place. At the border, Nassar Ibrahim turns practical jokes into metaphorical truths, Azmi Bishara sets the checkpoint to music, and Mahmoud Shukair inspects a guard at both professional and domestic crossroads. Adania Shibli suspends us in a fever dream of silence. Mahmoud Darwish’s diary considers enemies, blood, stones, and death. Zakaria Mohammad asks if an exile can ever go home again; Atef Abu Saif sets his emotional watch to “Gaza Time.” The young poet Hala Shurouf depicts a city, and a woman, constrained, while the grand dame of Palestinian poetry, the late Fadwa Touqan, bears the gravity of loss. Antoine Shulhut and Faisal Darraj provide contextualizing essays. We thank our guest editors, Tania Tamari Nasir and Taline Voskeritchian, for mapping this intersection of literary arts, memory, history, and place.

The Shoes
By Nassar Ibrahim
Perhaps it is merely a clever joke, but it has become a story, everybody’s story.
Translated from Arabic by Taline Voskeritchian
By Azmi Bishara
But the rababa is a naked, homeless instrument, and that is why, like beggars who do not have a rababa, the man used a standard tool for panhandling, a plastic plate.
Translated from Arabic by Taline Voskeritchian
Mordechai’s Mustache and His Wife’s Cats
By Mahmoud Shukair
Mordechai is a simple person, like tens of thousands of others in Tel Aviv (though he would insist that there are few like him there).
Translated from Arabic by Michael K. Scott
By Adania Shibli
“Her narrative voice resonates with the inner geographies of the Palestinian space.”—Anton Shammas
Translated from Arabic by Randa Jarrar
By Mahmoud Darwish
If you were told: you’re going to die here this evening What would you do in the remaining time?
Translated from Arabic by John Berger & Tania Tamari Nasir
Is This Home?
By Zakaria Mohammad
For the Israelis, these hours were needed so that each and every returnee would understand the truth they wanted understood: you are coming to place yourself under our heel.
Translated from Arabic by Michael K. Scott
Still Life: Scenes in Gaza Time
By Atef Abu Saif
He discovered suddenly that Gaza had a sea-a big sea too.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
My City’s Ceiling Is Too Tight
By Hala Shurouf
O my city . . . Be a little larger / so that I may see my shadow free / on the sidewalks
Translated from Arabic by Issa J. Boullata
A Lady Who Does Not Resemble Me
By Hala Shurouf
She opens the window to the friendly morning / and tempts its birds
Translated from Arabic by Issa J. Boullata
Longing Inspired by the Law of Gravity
By Fadwa Touqan
I miss the company of books / Their consolation through trouble and joy
Translated from Arabic by Chris Millis & Tania Tamari Nasir
Time, Place, and Identity in the Literature of the “1948 Region”
By Antoine Shulhut
A contemporary, retroactive review of the cultural identity of the Palestinian Arabs living inside Israel can form a basis for the critical study of the literary culture of this geographic area that is also known as the 1948 Region
Translated from Arabic by Tania Tamari Nasir
Transformations in Palestinian Literature
By Faisal Darraj
Others have been obliged to live the lives of impossible citizenship, since “the Arab who lives on the Land of Israel” can never be the equal of an Israeli citizen.
Translated from Arabic by Michael K. Scott