The Book of Gaza

The Book of Gaza COVER (2)At a time when the eyes of the world are turned on the battle being raged over Gaza, it seems entirely appropriate to be reading an anthology of stories by writers from the territory. The Book of Gaza brings together the work of ten Palestinian writers who between them represent a range of experiences of life in an enclave no more than 26 miles long and 3 miles wide yet fought over for decades.

Published by Comma Press in the UK earlier this year, The Book of Gaza is an attempt to show that there is another side to life in this region from what is typically seen in media reports. The city of Gaza itself is,  says editor Atef Abu Saif in his introduction, like any other coastal city with its coffee shops and inhabitants who relax on the beach., a city where “people love and hate, are filled with desires and wracked with concerns.”

The stories show that these emotions are played out against a background of restricted movement, military control and curfews and where the threat of violence is never far away. The point of some of the stories is a little obtuse at times and I had to read them more than once.  There is a brooding aspect to many of them, a foreboding sense of danger with many references to attacks on people living in the refugee camps or to waiting at the borders to cross into neighbouring Egypt or Israel.

AtefAbuSaifBut there is also a sense of human resilience. In one story by Zaki al ‘Ela, Abu Jaber Returns to the Woods, for example, a man is given a terrible beating but still refuses to give up the names of people wanted by the army.  In A Journey in the Opposite Direction by Atef Abu Saif, there is a chance encounter at the border between four friends from university. One of the men is waiting for his brother to return to Gaza after twenty years. He’s already waited for three days while his brother tried to get through an iron gate at the border amidst  thousands of pushing and shoving travellers. The other man has already made the crossing, returning home so that he can see his mother before she dies. As they share a drink at a makeshift cafe, they encounter two girls who are trying to cross the border in the other direction but having similar difficulties. The border crossing is abandoned, the wait for the brother fizzles out and the four ride off back to Gaza under a moonlight sky to the sounds of laughter.

As Saif says the people of Gaza “live on a remorseless stretch of land, in a reality that tries to kill their desire to live, yet they do not tire of loving life as long as there is a way to do so.”




About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on July 17, 2014, in Book Reviews, Gaza, world literature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Adding it to my list !! Too tired of news telecasts and newspaper headlines regarding war torn Gaza, would love to read and know something different about life in Gaza.

  2. This sounds like a very interesting book! I’ve recently read several books, fiction and nonfiction, set in the Middle East and I’d love to read more about this part of the world.

  3. Adding it to my list. It’s a great looking book and sounds like the stories are pretty great too.

  4. I was intrigued by this when you mentioned it previously. Having read a bit more of it and checked it out at Comma Press website, I think I’d like this so have ordered. Thanks for the heads up on it!

    • Its quite an unusual book to say the least. i noticed they have published others from different countries so I might give them a go – the city of tokyo is probably my first choice

      • I saw the books on other cities on their site. My first choice will probably be the Liverpool book as my partner is from the city and I think it’s a great place – and of course it’s good to be parochial from time to time!

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