“Crime in Ramallah” by Abbad Yahya

This article is also available in: Italiano

“Crime in Ramallah” is a text that marks a decisive unicum in narrating some thorny issues of the Arab world, effectively bringing something revolutionary to Arab literature

Crime in Ramallah

“A detective story. The story of a murder. According to Ahmed Barak, the attorney general of Palestine, the work is not a detective story, but a book about sex and gays, thus violating public morality. In reality, Jarīmah fī Rām Allāh (Murder in Ramallah) is a book that also deals with something else: because it is true that it is not just a mystery, but it is a very political story, a metaphor for the crisis of Palestinian society. And above all, of its leadership. But Murad Sudani , head of the writers’ union, was explicit: in an occupied country, he said, the role of a writer is not to divide, but to generate hope. Lead the resistance. “

Federica Pistono

3 stories around the Lotus

The story of the novel all revolves around the Lotus, a local in Ramallah to which the 3 protagonists are closely linked: Ra’uf, Nur, two waiters, and Wisam, the owner. However, it can be safely said that in the text there are 3 different stories, each for each character, which are located in the same “narrative universe”, but with very different times between them. The first story that will be shown to us will be that of Ra’uf, a young Palestinian who went to Ramallah to study and who will then be kidnapped by the passion for Dunia, a mysterious girl, who will completely transform him.

Crime in Ramallah

The second is the one that has caused the greatest clamor in Palestine, as we observe a Ra’uf engaged to Nur, another young Palestinian and narrator. To be precise, the story does not start with the two who are together, but with the first who has just left his partner without an apparent reason, generating long doubts and torments. The third story is instead the one that actually gives its name to the work, with Wisam who will find himself anchored to a hellish doubt.

Not just a “gay book”

Let’s get this tooth out of the way: no, “Crime in Ramallah” is not a “scandalous” book in any way and absolutely not a “gay book”; indeed, this last part is incredibly marginal. Mind you, I first of all understood that these issues were in the foreground, but the reality of the facts is very different and, perhaps, even more significant. It seems hard to believe, but the fact that the two are homosexual has no bearing on the plot, so much so that Nur’s story could be that of any Palestinian girl.

Crime in Ramallah
The author Abbad Yahya

Obviously it is made to understand that, despite the name, Nur is a man, however everything is handled with extreme naturalness and lightness by the author, so as to make it almost irrelevant. It is precisely this way of putting oneself that is extraordinary, highlighting a message that is not at all trivial: “this aspect is secondary”.

What is the book about?

What is “Crime in Ramallah” about then? In fact, the only doubt that persists about the novel is just that. Although all three stories are very smooth and pleasant to read, they are almost three separate planets that revolve around the same Sun. Obviously the stories of Nur and Ra’uf are particularly linked to each other, but even the latter seem almost describe different characters and this complicates not a little the answer to this question.


Probably the most correct answer would be: “the life of the youth of Ramallah”, but it would not fit perfectly because of the multitude of facets present in the work. In general, “Crime in Ramallah” is a book that actually marks a visible and powerful step forward in the way of seeing and telling certain themes; however, due to its uniqueness, it is difficult to place in something “already seen”. It is undoubtedly highly recommended for those who want to deepen what is happening in Palestine “among Palestinians” and in general for those interested in social changes within the Arab world.

In the next few days the text will return thanks to a comparison with “The Yacoubian Building” by ‘Ala al Aswani and “A Well-trained Stray” by Muhammad Aladdin, texts that contain important analogies with “Crime in Ramallah”.

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