Nora Parr has translated an excerpt from Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Under the Midmorning Sun (Taḥta shams al-ḍuḥā, Arab Scientific Publishers, Beirut, 2004) for the journal Politics / Letters:
The novel, as Parr notes, was initially published as a twin set, under the title Aʻrās āmina taḥta shams al-ḍuḥā (Safe Weddings Under the Midmorning Sun), where Safe Weddings was a second novel, set around experiences of the Second Intifada in the Gaza Strip.
Parr introduces the novel by saying that, “In the era of Nasrallah’s Second Intifada, there are no more heroes. There are the oppressed and the people they climb over them to find a way out of an impossible situation.”
The excerpt opens:
Seven minutes before its natural end the play stopped. Its rhythm had been sped up, the performance turned into something resembling the dull recitation of a classical poem, or a school text learned by rote.
Arriving at the back door of the theatre, he found him waiting. Before Yasin could lay eyes on the actor, however, he retreated inside. Salim waited a little, then peered out again. Yasin was still there.
He quickly headed for the main door of the theatre, but fate dealt him a surprise, because Yasin –somehow—was there too.
He returned to the stage, frozen in its very center like an actor who had forgotten the reason he was at the theatre.
How much time passed? He did not know, he was not even roused by the boy who came in to clean the hall, who had begun his work between the rows of seats with the persistence of an ant.
– We didn’t agree to this
5 More by Ibrahim Nasrallah:
1) Time of White Horses, trans. Nancy Roberts
Nasrallah’s Time of White Horses, translated by Nancy Roberts, opens during turn-of-the-century Ottoman rule and is a sprawling, multi-generational work, highlighting how characters adapt to — or fight against — social and political change.
When we first meet Hajj Mahmud and his family, in Time of White Horses, they are living in a Palestinian village that is ruled by distant and disorganized Ottomans. The appearance of British forces slowly changes the social and political landscape. Later, the characters are surprised by a nearby Jewish settlement, which grows larger and bolder; finally, there comes the confusing and frustrating loss of safety, dignity, and home.
2) The Lanterns of the King of Galilee, trans. Nancy Roberts
This novel — longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction — spans nearly a century (1685-1775) — and launches from the shores of Lake Tiberias and the mountains of Galilee, Nazareth and Acre, where Dhaher al-Omar al-Zeidani begins his journey to challenge the Ottoman Empire, which then extended over three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.
3) Rain Inside: Selected Poems by Ibrahim Nasrallah, translated by Omnia Amin and Rick London
An excerpt from Northwestern University Press:
There’s the dewy taste of seas and clouds in the dust,
the taste of the expanse and the rain,
of plains, mountains, humans,
of feminity, love, and intrepid oranges,
of childhood and saffron,
of living in my mother’s heart,
and of your soul and mine.
But my beloved trees steal toward the source
to taste it in solitude, before any of us
4) Prairies of Fever, translated by May Jayyusi and Jeremy Reed
Kirkus calls it: “An accomplished first novel, almost poetic in its lyrically intense evocation of place, that limns skillfully the horrors of dissonance and disintegration in an unfamiliar setting.”
5) Forthcoming, October 2017: Gaza Weddings, translated by Nancy Roberts
From the publisher’s blurb: “Twin sisters Randa and Lamis live under the brutal occupation of the Gaza Strip. As neighbors, friends, and strangers are killed, one after another, their identities are blurred by death that strikes so randomly and without warning. Yet just as this terrible cycle continues, so too does the cycle of life. Randa, Lamis, and their friend Amna seek to affirm life, not just survive, by working, playing, loving, matchmaking, planning weddings, and looking to the future. People get married, children are born, and hope springs anew.”