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Palestinian Resistance Literature and #readingisresistance Readathon
A few days ago, I read an article about a Palestinian author, Adania Shibli, who was supposed to be at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 20 October for the award ceremony in honor of her novel Minor Detail, which is a story about injustice and oppression.
It is a story about a Palestinian teenage girl who was raped and murdered, buried in the sand to be forgotten, and about another young woman from Ramallah, who will, some years later become determined to tell her story.
What connects these to women is a minor detail, a date. The murder took place exactly twenty-five years to the day before the young woman from Ramallah was born. What also connects them is a life in fear, under the boot of oppressors, the reality that didn’t change from the first girl’s time to the second’s.
Besides, sometimes it’s inevitable for the past to be forgotten, especially if the present is no less horrific.Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
However, the said ceremony for the book did not take place. The association responsible for handing out the award, Litprom, released the first statement saying it was Shibli’s decision, later changing their narrative and saying it was “due to war started by Hammas”. Either way, in light of what is happening in Palestine and Gaza, this move was loud and clear.
Shutting down Palestinian voices, especially at this moment, caused outrage, and one of the responses was an open letter signed by more than 350 authors, publishers, and editors.
As my grandma would say, “vrag mi nije dao mira” [read: I couldn’t sit still], so I immediately looked this title up in my local bookstore. As luck would have it, it wasn’t available, or so I’ve been told, but I saw online that the book was free on Kindle.
I also discovered that there will be a #readingisresistance Readathon, organized by Hana (Khai Diep’s Version) (@hanaslibrary) on TikTok, between 22 October and 4 November, and it is an invitation for all of us to engage, show support, and educate ourselves.
Minor Detail is a short novel, some 100 to 150 pages, depending on the edition and format. It took me a couple of hours to read the book, and I hope more people can spare that much time to join this Readathon.
Resistance literature is also a concept related to (but not exclusive to) the Palestinian authors, and it is another thing we can all dedicate more time to learning about.
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people
Finalist for the National Book Award
Longlisted for the International Booker Prize
Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba—the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people—and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand.
Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.
By the way, I hope I didn’t cause any awkwardness when I mentioned the incident with the soldier, or the checkpoint, or when I reveal that we are living under occupation here.Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
With such a high-alert, unstable, and inhumane way of living, there’s no need for much word-accessorizing. Shibli approached us with just another excerpt of life in Palestine in the last decades. Reading this book felt like listening to all those news reports these past few days.
That’s especially true with how this “report”, or the book, ended. The ending startled me and brought to the surface my fears of not seeing certain reporters online anymore.
My chewing gum. Where is it? I have to calm down. I reach my hand towards my pocket, for the pack of chewing gum.Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
In the place where the sand is drinking water and blood, where the dust of the destroyed buildings covers the sky, and where bombs are consistently getting louder to cover up the vailing of parents and screaming of children, it is more important than ever to listen to the voices. The voice of Minor Detail is clear, straightforward, and impactful.
The past that spills into the present, not because of some universal matters still important today but because of its direct effects and ongoing nature, is a bigger picture of life in Palestine.
The stories like this one, brought to light by Adania Shibli, are all minor details, something that, as she says, is not at all unusual, especially when compared with what happens daily in the place dominated by the roar of occupation and ceaseless killing.
There may in fact be nothing more important than this small detail, if one wants to arrive at the complete truth.Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
That young woman from Ramallah started digging up a concealed and forgotten story with hesitation, and I see our generation mirrored in her nervous approach. Pushing through fear and discomfort, we unite our efforts, find resources, and share them. We educate each other, listen, and speak. The importance of books and literature like this one lies precisely in using them as tools.
That is why I like the book so much. Aside from simple, flowing language, the concise sketching of characters, and relatable descriptions of overall anxiety, I loved how Minor Detail echoed everyone’s reluctance to speak up and how it shed light on the Palestinian reality in plain language.
Minor Detail To Pay Attention To
As a matter of fact, I’m the last person who could do that, because of all my stuttering and stammering. In short, there’s absolutely no point in my feeling responsible for her, feeling like she’s a nobody and will forever remain a nobody whose voice nobody will hear. Besides, people have to deal with enough misery in the world today; there’s no reason to go searching for more and digging into the past.Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
The quote above is from Minor Detail, but it might as well have been from the Internet these past weeks. People don’t feel the need or the right to talk about it, but here’s the thing. Precisely because of the media silencing and gaslighting, the false narratives, and the ease we find in our indifferent stance, we must force ourselves to look at the minor details, look for the fly hovering over the painting, be triggered, and take action.
As I’ve said before, in today’s society, nothing is that far away that we don’t see or hear or that it doesn’t affect or involve us.
Minor Detail is not another fictional novel we get to read if it’s to our preference. We don’t get to be silent about this. It’s on all of us. Trying to ban books and silence authors only holds power if people accept it and stop reading. It’s us readers who make the call.
I said this before, and it is a shortcoming I feel so heavily in times like this. I’m not good with words, so they might not have the impact I would want them to have, but I have to say it.
At least as a fly buzzing around, if it makes someone get up and see what all the buzz is about, and if that can turn into a chain reaction until we create a link that cares, I will be flying around. In the meantime, I will be in the corner with my books, trying to learn more.
The Fly Returns To Hover Over The Painting
I would like to point everyone once again to the #readingisresistance Readathon and direct you to other Palestinian authors, such as Mahmoud Darwish, Mohammed El-Kurd, Susan Abulhawa, and Isabella Hammad.
I dedicate the majority of space on my blog to books, so I think it’s the best way to talk about these issues through “what I do best”.