PalFest Day 2: Palestine Like a Humor-writing Masterclass

Photo taken in Nablus, from the PalFest flicker account,

In his Day 2 blog on the PalFest website, author William Sutcliffe writes about his reading, given in a Turkish bath, and about what being in Palestine has taught him about humor:

As a writer who has spent most of my career pursuing comic fiction, worrying away at the nexus between laughter and pain that has fa[s]cinated me all my life, this evening – as with every day I have spent so far in this amazing country – has provided me with an extraordinary masterclass. Nowhere else have I seen such pain; rarely before have I felt embraced by such laughter.

In her blog from Day 1, Susan Abulhawa, the author of Mornings in Jenin, is less interested in humor. She does raise an eyebrow when she’s selected for “special treatment” by the Israeli army, and she jokes—when she can’t find some of her things, after her bags were incessantly searched—that “first they stole my home, heritage and history, now they took my favorite leather boots!”

But mostly Abulhawa is interested in the readings at the Palestinian National Theater. She describes each of the presentations, and then ends with the English translation of a poem of Taha Muhammad Ali’s. Ali, although no longer in good health, had arrived at dinnertime and recited from the poem below (in Arabic).

Lovers of hunting,
and beginners seeking your prey:
Don’t aim your rifles
at my happiness,
which isn’t worth
the price of the bullet
(you’d waste on it).
What seems to you
so nimble and fine,
like a fawn,
and flees
every which way,
like a partridge,
isn’t happiness.
Trust me:
my happiness bears
no relation to happiness.