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November 2006

Writing Palestine

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.

Photo courtesy Yishay Garbasz. © 2006 by Yishay Garbasz. All rights reserved.

Transformations in Palestinian Literature
Leo Tolstoy prefaced his Anna Karenina with the following statement: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Palestinians today are unlucky enough to…
Translated from Arabic
Time, Place, and Identity in the Literature of the “1948 Region”
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…
Translated from Arabic
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). He enjoys living his easy and comfortable life, gives no one grief,…
Translated from Arabic by Michael K. Scott
Silence
By Adania Shibli
“Her narrative voice resonates with the inner geographies of the Palestinian space.”—Anton Shammas
Translated from Arabic by Randa Jarrar
Rababa
With the arrival of the first signs of spring at the end of the second month of the year, on the third day after the rains had stopped, the rababa1 appeared at the military checkpoint, and what is meant…
Translated from Arabic
The Abolition of the Profession of Curser
By Ismail Kadare
Other rumors might have circulated widely in earlier periods, but without a doubt these new ones should have produced the greatest effect. The current reports concerned the abolition of the office of…
Translated from French by John K. Cox
My City’s Ceiling Is Too Tight
I am now overflowing beyond my name, beyond my body and going out of my details to the pain of place while my heart is as cool as a cloud, a lonely female. As for my hands, they protect my heart from…
Translated from Arabic
A Soldier’s Vigil
By Rodolfo Walsh
You’ll be coming soon, I’ll hear your bike on the gravel, pedaling slowly, the headlight out. You don’t need light, you don’t need to see us to know who we are, you know me by…
Translated from Spanish by Cindy Schuster
Diary
Mahmoud Darwish has recently begun a diary: a daily record of reflections, observations, and intimate personal commentary on the ordinary life of Palestinians today. The following sections were among…
Translated from Arabic
A Lady Who Does Not Resemble Me
A lady who does not resemble me emerges now from her dream, still warm She opens the window to the friendly morning and tempts its birds to perch on her brocaded shawl. She then finds time to preen herself…
Translated from Arabic
The Great Atlas of Polish Queens
By Michal Witkowski
Style QueensI picked up my cigarettes and went for a walk through the ruts toward Świnoujście. I looked over and saw that pharmacist from Bydgoszcz lying there. She had her umbrella with the…
Translated from Polish by W. Martin
Longing Inspired by the Law of Gravity
Time's out and I'm home alone with the shadow I cast Gone is the law of the universe, scattered by frivolous fate Nothing to hold down my things Nothing to weigh them to the floor My possessions…
Translated from Arabic
The Shoes
By Nassar Ibrahim
Perhaps it is merely a clever joke, but it has become a story, everybody’s story.No one knew why Nizar insisted on going to Ramallah. The situation is not encouraging—the military checkpoints, the…
Translated from Arabic by Taline Voskeritchian
Still Life: Scenes in Gaza Time
By Atef Abu Saif
Discovery He discovered suddenly that Gaza had a sea-a big sea too. It was blue-like a dark-colored painting-and in the evening the sun resembled a giant orange plunging into the watery abyss as it disappeared…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
Is This Home?
In the days prior to my return I had decided to assume a cool demeanor and contemplate my country as a tourist might, and not as a rapturous and homesick returnee. I wanted to hold the moment in my hands,…
Translated from Arabic