Review: ‘Pay No Heed to the Rockets’

Canadian author Marcello Di Cintio recently released a book about his journey among Palestinian writers.

It opens:

Marcello Di Cintio’s Pay No Heed to the Rockets is a road trip in search of Palestine’s writers. In just a little over 200 pages, Di Cintio introduces us to dozens of writers, each living a different creative life in cities ranging from Ramallah to Haifa to Gaza to Jerusalem.

Di Cintio is fortunate to meet authors as far north as Akka and as far south as Gaza City. While the distance travelled is less than 200 kilometres, it’s a journey most of the writers in the book would be unable to take.

The book’s subtitle is “Palestine in the Present Tense”, but Di Cintio starts his journey in the past, talking to family and friends of two of Palestine’s late and most well-known writers: Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani.

The author’s first stop is Al Birwa, the village where Palestine’s national poet was born. For those familiar with Palestinian literature, there is not much new in the opening chapter. But its stories of expulsion, arrest and assassination set the stage for the rest of Di Cintio’s journey.

After Al Birwa, Di Cintio piles us back in the car and heads for Ramallah, where we meet the young writer Maya Abu-Alhayyat. Born to a Lebanese mother and a Palestine Liberation Organisation father, Abu-Alhayyat was raised in various Arab cities, not moving to Palestine until she was 16. She speaks frankly about the obstacles she’s faced as a woman writer. First, she said, she wasn’t taken seriously. Later, male writers wanted credit for discovering her. “But mostly the men want you to clap for them.”

You can keep reading at The National.