I’m Not to Talk About Adania Shibli’s /Touch/

I have begun to despair of my review of Adania Shibli’s lovely Touch ever seeing daylight. (Yes, yes, it will…next issue….) And, as one is not supposed to write about a book before one’s review has seen light, I can’t say much about it here.

However, since the book is lovely (I can say that, can’t I?), and has been out for several months now, I must direct you to the only review of it I’ve seen, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie’s a couple weeks back in The National.

Palestinian author Adania Shibli was one referred to by Ahdaf Soueif as “the most talked-about author on the West Bank.” Since then, as Wilson-Goodie notes, the description has hung around Shibli’s neck like a cow bell, preceding her wherever she goes.

But while the phrase may feel tiresome to those of us who’ve read a number of pieces about Shibli, the praise is deserved. Shibli’s work stands out among her peers: she is developing an individual style, a new way of speaking about her Palestinian girlhood.

In Wilson-Goldie’s words (not mine, since I’m not allowed), the book does not so much “tell a story,” but:

Instead, Touch purrs along like an extended prose poem – all words and sounds and images – as Shibli picks up the glinting fragments of the girl’s experience, then turns them over in her hand to see how they refract the light of a world so radically constricted and reduced.

At some point, ISA, I’ll tell you what I thought of Shibli’s novella. Until then, you can just go buy a copy.

Update: Well, apparently Rain Taxi heard my plea, as this just appeared:

Stories about the past often mislead: in order to create a satisfying whole, most writers carefully arrange history and memory, inventing links and causal connections. Sometimes, this results in good storytelling. But sometimes the task of an author—particularly one who writes about a hyper-symbolized terrain—is to un-narrativize, to pull things back apart.

Adania Shibli is up to this task. Touch brings us the fragmented worldview of a narrator at the cusp of understanding her world. The 72-page novella could be described as five interconnected prose poems, a historical fiction about the Palestinian territories set in 1982, or a coming-of-age tale in which maturation is marked not by a loss of innocence, but by an ever-growing loneliness and alienation. Read more>>