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Category Archive for 'Palestine'

Mai Al-Nakib, an author from Kuwait who got her PhD. in English literature from Brown University, knows how to capture an American audience, and her descriptions and her narrative style in this remarkable collection of stories are so attuned to her characters and subjects that readers will actually experience – not just “learn about” – parts of the world which most of us know only second-hand. Set in Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine, and, through the travel of some of these characters, in Japan and Greece, her stories are filled with word pictures so vivid that many readers will come close to feeling the reality of day-to-day life in these places. She opens new worlds, and by the time the collection ends, many readers will be viewing life in these parts of the world with clearer vision and greater empathy. The passage of time, the fragility of life, the effects of change, and the transcience of memory unite this story and connect it to other stories in this collection. The title of the collection, The Hidden Light of Objects, attests to the importance of the story objects within these stories, and while none of us, perhaps, regard our own “souvenirs” or keepsakes as “story objects” in quite the same way as they are used here, it is impossible not to identify with the characters here as they share their intimate thoughts and feelings with us as readers. Separating the ten short stories are series of ten short vignettes, which sometimes connect with each other and within various stories. This extraordinary collection deals with the biggest, most universal themes of literature, told through the eyes of characters with whom readers will identify and, perhaps, gain in understanding.

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In her debut novel, Out of It, British Palestinian author Selma Dabbagh creates a family from Gaza which reflects all the stresses, conflicts, and competing philosophies endemic to that world, a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast in the westernmost corner of Israel, bordering Egypt. Creating a well-differentiated Gaza family which lives their lives and join friends in numerous activities, both political and otherwise, the reader learns about life in Gaza and the various factions complicating any unified action by any Palestinian “government.” By showing the action through members of a single family with differing points of view, the author makes many issues come alive in new ways and shows how they affect family dynamics. And though the issues and the different political factions attempting to deal with them are sometimes a bit muddled for those of us who are not already familiar with all the various groups in Gaza, her focus is clearly on those issues. We come to know the characters within the limits of their points of view, and they and their fates become part of the message rather than ends in themselves. The novel is enlightening and often entertaining, descriptive and often memorable, and exciting but often horrific, with few hints that any real solution is forthcoming.

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Against the backdrop of Palestinian history from 1923 – 1948, Lebanese author Selim Nassib creates the extraordinary love story of passionate, young Golda Meir and Albert Pharoan, a wealthy Arab banker. Pharaon has abandoned the high life of Beirut, along with his wife and children, to live in Haifa, where he is a first-hand observer of the growing Zionist movement, along with the conflicts Zionism creates among the Arab people. From 1929 to 1936, according to legend (corroborated by his family, though not hers), they see each other secretly, reveling in each other’s company even as they are poles apart in their visions for Palestine. Their affair takes place during major policy decisions by the high-powered leaders with whom Golda associates, well described here, but Nassib’s point of view is obviously different from that of most western “founding-of-Israel novels.”

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