Raja Shehadeh, a Palestinian lawyer and author who lives in Ramallah (and writes in English) has a new book out this month from Profile Books, titled A Rift in Time.
Shehadeh is best-known for his Palestinian Walks, which was the recipient of the 2008 Orwell Prize, Britain’s big prize for political writing. Profile Books gives a plot summary of A Rift in Time: Travels with my Ottoman Uncle:
To his [Shehadeh’s] surprise, when researching his family history, he discovered a great uncle who had also been a writer entangled with the authorities, and who, like Raja, had dedicated his life to the freedom of the Palestinian people. Najib was a journalist and romantic living in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire. When he voiced his opposition to Ottoman participation in the First World War, a death sentence was put on his head. So he fled, living on the run and off the land for nearly three years.
The quest for Najib, the details of his life, and the route of his great escape consumed Raja for two years. As he traces Najib’s footsteps, he discovers that today it would be impossible to flee the cage that Palestine has become. A Rift in Time is a family memoir, but it is also a reflection on how Palestine – in particular the disputed Jordan Rift Valley – has been transformed. Most of Palestine’s history and that of its people is buried deep in the ground: whole villages have disappeared and names have been erased from the map. Yet by seeing the bigger picture of the landscape and the unending struggle for freedom as Raja does, it is still possible to look towards a better future, free from Israeli or Ottoman oppression.
You can find a review at The Living Scotsman. They conclude:
Written with deceptive simplicity, this is a profound tale of the impact which politics has on identity and memory, and a searing portrait of a territory endlessly rewritten, renamed and re-imagined.
In other news of Palestinians living in Ramallah who write in English, Suad Amiry—author of Sharon and My Mother-in-Law and Nothing To Lose But Your Life: An Eighteen Hour Journey With Murad—will be at the Southbank Centre in London this October. PalFest organizers urge you to get your tickets now—and I can assure that Amiry is a charming, funny, engaging speaker.