On the day after Christmas, writer and scholar Clint Smith asked:
Who are some good Palestinian novelists/poets/essayists to read?
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) December 26, 2017
In the coming weeks, ArabLit will have a series on teaching with Arabic literature in translation, including Palestinian literature. But for now, a few annotated suggestions from the thread.
As you would hope, at least a dozen commenters mentioned Ghassan Kanafani, particularly his seminal Returning to Haifa and Men in the Sun. Several also mentioned Suad Amiry’s sharp, witty books, including Nothing to Lose But Your Life. Her earlier book, Sharon and My Mother-in-law was the “One Book, Many Cities” read of 2016, and you can read a short excerpt online.
Scholar Nora Parr, who has a particular interest in Palestinian literature, was the first to suggest Adania Shibli’s excellent Touch, translated by Paula Haydar. Shibli’s We Are All Equally Far from Love, translated by Paul Starkey, is also in English translation, and Shibli also has a new novel forthcoming in Arabic. Meanwhile, you can read Shibli’s “On East-West Dialogue” on The Kenyon Review, trans. Suneela Mubayi.
Samira al-Azzam’s acclaimed short stories have, unfortunately, not been published in an English collection.
Azzam’s most well-known collection is The Clock and the Man, in which “Man and His Alarm Clock“ was published, which has been translated by Nora Parr, Michael Beard, and Wen-Chin Ouyang. You can also read Azzam’s “Bread of Sacrifice“ online, published in the anthology Modern Palestinian Literature, ed. the aforementioned Salma Khadra Jayyusi, translated by Kathie Piselli and Dick Davies.
Where to start! #ghassankanafani _return to Haifa and other stories_, fresh out in translation is Ibrahim Nasrallah’s _Gaza Weddings_, Atef Abu Saif’s short story edit _book of Gaza_ is a delightful cornucopia or Adania Shibli’s _touch_ or Samir a azzam’s short stories….
— Nora Parr (@noraehp) December 26, 2017
You can also read ArabLit editor M. Lynx Qualey’s review of Gaza Weddings, and a discussion of Nasrallah’s “Palestinian Comedy” project in The National.
Of course Mahmoud Darwish was mentioned many times, although no one recommended a particular work:
Mahmoud Darwish is usually the start
— Zito (@_Zeets) December 26, 2017
The latest, posthumous, collection of Darwish’s to be published is I Don’t Want This Poem to End: Early and Late Poems (2017), translated by Mohammad Shaheen, with an introduction by Elias Khoury. But Darwish works to start on might include:
“Silence for the Sake of Gaza,” from Journal of an Ordinary Grief, trans. Ibrahim Muhawi. You can also download another excerpt from the book from the English publisher, Archipelago.
A River Dies of Thirst: Journals, trans. Catherine Cobham: Download an excerpt from the publisher.
Another recommendation was the Words Without Borders section, from May 2015, on new Palestinian writing, selected and edited by poet Nathalie Handal. It includes work by Palestinian-Icelandic author Mazen Maarouf, whose award-winning debut collection of short stories, Jokes for the Gunmen, is forthcoming in Jonathan Wright’s translation this year. The WWB section also has work by prominent Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish, whose Nothing More to Lose, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid, was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award.
Also, Words without Borders had a month dedicated to new Palestine writing https://t.co/e7pwMnYkhv
— Zito (@_Zeets) December 26, 2017
Poet Omar Sakr also mentioned Najwan Darwish’s collection, trans. Abu-Zeid:
Najwan Darwish is a great Palestinian poet, his first book in English–translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid–is called Nothing More to Lose, published by New York Review of Books.
— Omar Sakr (@OmarjSakr) December 27, 2017
There were recommendations to read Edward Said’s theory, as well as his award-winning memoir Out of Place.
Read "Orientalism" and "Culture and Imperialism" by the late Edward Said. He is a Palestinian-American both in Mandatory Palestine and that identity conflict (& intersection) comes through in his writings. He is a post-colonial and culture theorist and the first book relates…
— Kay (@far_4rm_normal) December 26, 2017
Raja Shehadeh got several mentions, particularly for his Orwell-winning Palestinian Walks. Several of the prolific Shehaden’s other books were discussed in the third episode of Bulaq, along with other works of Palestinian literature.
Ooo also raja shehadeh has a beautiful book called Palestinian Walks, highly recommend
— س (@summabis) December 26, 2017
The great Emile Habibi (1922-1996) was not forgotten. Said the Pessoptimist is his best-known work, but you can listen to excerpts of Habibi’s Saraya, The Ogre’s Daughter: A Palestinian Fairy Tale, trans. Peter Theroux, read by Marcela Sulak.
Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury’s classic Gate of the Sun, translated by Humphrey Davies, also gets a mention.
mahmoud darwish, edward said, emile habibi, raja shahadeh, ghassan kanafani (and not by palestinians but gate of the sun by elias khoury and palestine by joe sacco)
— Bitchcoin 🤓 (@SubMedina) December 27, 2017
Mourid Barghouti’s two memoirs — the Naguib Mahfouz Medal-winning I Saw Ramallah, as well as his later I Was Born Here, I Was Born There — were both recommended:
Mourid Barghouti's I Saw Ramallah & I Was Born There, I Was Born Here.
— #ReadMoreWomen (@BookishDubai) December 27, 2017
Of Palestinian authors who write in Hebrew, Anton Shammas’s classic Arabesques, trans. Vivian Eden got a recommendation, as was the bitingly funny Sayed Kashua. His Native: Dispatches from Israeli-Palestinian Life (2016), trans. Ralph Mandel is surely worth a read. You can read some of Kashua’s columns on Haaretz.
There were shoutouts for a number of Palestinian-American writers, including author-translator Fady Joudah, fiction stylists Randa Jarrar and Hala Alyan, author-activist Susan Abulhawa, and poet and spoken-word artist Suheir Hammad:
It took a while in the thread, but the great stylist and innovator Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1919-1994) was mentioned, alongside the award-winning novelist Sahar Khalifeh, whose Of Noble Origins, trans. Aida Bamia, is a wonderful look at women’s lives pre-1948. You can read a short excerpt from Jabra’s In Search of Walid Masoud online.
Glad many people said Ghassan Kanafani. His "Men in the Sun" gave me the shudders. Sahar Khalifeh and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra are also among the gorgeous Palestinian writers that have not been mentioned.
— Ardazarian (@ArdaWhateverian) December 27, 2017
Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck recommended Anne Marie Jacir’s new film:
That’s a beautiful thread. I see lots of awesome writers recommended already. If you’re interested in film too, check out director Anne Marie Jacir. Her recent film “Wajib” is gorgeous. Watched it this month & still thinking about it.
— Zeina Hashem Beck زينة هاشم بك (@zeinabeck) December 27, 2017
There was also one recommended theatre text: Dalia Taha’s “Fireworks,” translated by Clem Naylor and published by Bloomsbury. For those interested in Palestinian theatre, there’s also Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora, edited by Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi.
Dalia Taha's Fireworks (Al'ab Nariya). Been teaching it to undergraduate for years. Such a great play about kids in Gaza. Very well-written!
— Palendia (@Palendia) December 27, 2017
Palestinian poet Lina Alsharif pointed to lesser-known authors, particularly those from Gaza. Other writings from Gaza include Atef Abu Saif’s The Drone Eats With Me and the collection of stories he edited, The Book of Gaza, which does get a mention in the thread. You can also read a piece by Abu Saif, “Over the Sound of the Drone,” published by English PEN.
Robin Moger — in his typical, long-winded style — recommends the brilliant Alaa Hlehel, who along with fellow Palestinian writers Shibli and Darwish was one of the “Beirut39,” a group of 39 promising Arab authors under 40.
— Robin Moger (@RobinMoger) December 27, 2017
You can also check the pieces in ArabLit’s “Palestine” section.