Palestine in 7 books

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Palestine in 7 books that have appeared (or will appear) on the Middle East and its surroundings to better understand the Palestinian epopee

Palestine in 7 books

In such a dramatic moment for the fate of the Palestinian people, I decided to create this list of books in order to provide readers from the Medio Oriente e Dintorni valid tools to try to understand the trajectory of this living, proud but suffering people. Naturally it is an incomplete and spurious list of various elements that are fundamental to have an even clearer picture of the whole, but I hope that with these you can already have a clearer idea of what the Palestinian parable has been. Precisely due to this setting, the order will not be that of the release date on the site, but of the historical period described. I have personally read all 7 texts, 5 are already present in Medio Oriente e Dintorni, while 2 will be released soon.

Today more than ever I recommend you follow the Young Palestinians of Italy, they are people who experience all this first hand and are the best suited to tell you about it.

“Una trilogia palestinese” by Mahmoud Darwish

The first collection of the three most significant prose texts by one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. And certainly the greatest Arab poet and writer of the last century. Says Elias Sanbar: “Darwish was not an ambassador of his country but a poet unattached to nationality and passport. Certainly Palestine was his humus, the land where he had his roots: its flora and fauna, its music and its clouds, but all this should not have been his limit. If he talks about land, that land is his own land. He never got bogged down in the interpretations that gave him the work of him “. Diary of the usual sadness (1973) retraces the time preceding the choice of exile – the house arrest, the interrogations of Israeli officers, the prison – and closes the most drastically militant phase of the poet. Memory for Forgetfulness (1987) evokes the Israeli invasion of Beirut in August 1982. In the presence of absence (2006) is a reflection on poetic experience and language. A sort of testament, which coincides with the farewell of the poignant poem Il Giocatore d’Azzardo (2009), which closes this volume.

Una trilogia palestinese

Recommended because: it tells very well about Darwish‘s childhood including the destruction of some villages in Palestine, then showing what the invasion of Beirut was like from the eyes of a Palestinian; all in the wonderful writing of one of the greatest poets in contemporary history.

The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist ” by Emile Habibi

Set in Haifa, the novel tells us about the extraordinary adventures of Felice, an Arab in the State of Israel. Emil Habibi with his sardonic, picaresque, brilliant style spares no one: Arabs, Israelis, progressives, reactionaries, hawks and doves; making extensive use of allegory and parody he does not lose the taste for saying what he wants. Habibi writes the novel in response to those who ignore the history of the Palestinians: get to know his works, and see the theatrical version of the novel “The Pessottimist”, translated into Hebrew “Ha’op-Simist”, as “The Jerusalem Post” wrote on 24 October 1986, it is a civic duty, just as it was to go and see films about the Shoah, about the Holocaust, “because it is time that every citizen of this State knows what it means to be an Arab among us”.

The Pessoptimist

Recommended because: in addition to being considered among the best Arab and Palestinian novels of all time, “The Pessoptimist” is one of the few to tell what it means to be a Palestinian in Israel; all with a very strong comic verve which, unfortunately, is partly lost in the Italian translation (this is not due to the negligence of the translator, but due to the objective complexity of the text, combined with puns and traditions that are difficult to translate into Italian).

“Mornings in Jenin ” by Susan Abulhawa

A poignant novel that can do for Palestine what the “Kite Runner” did for Afghanistan. It sensitively and calmly tells the story of four generations of Palestinians forced to leave their homeland after the birth of the state of Israel and to experience the sad condition of “homelessness”. Through the voice of Amal, the brilliant granddaughter of the patriarch of the Abulheja family, we experience the abandonment of her ancestors’ home of ‘Ain Hod, in 1948, for the Jenin refugee camp. We witness the dramatic events of her two brothers, forced to become enemies: the first kidnapped as a newborn and becoming an Israeli soldier, the second who instead dedicates his existence to the Palestinian cause. And, in parallel, Amal’s story unfolds: childhood, love, bereavement, marriage, motherhood and, finally, her need to share this story with her daughter, to preserve her greatest love. The history of Palestine, intertwined with the events of a family that becomes a symbol of Palestinian families, unfolds over almost sixty years, through the episodes that marked the birth of one state and the end of another. In the foreground there is the tragedy of exile, war, the loss of land and loved ones, life in refugee camps, condemned to survive while waiting for a turning point. The author does not look for the guilty among the Israelis, she tells the story of many victims capable of moving forward only thanks to love.

Mornings in Jenin

Recommended because: it tells the entire Palestinian epic from its origins up to 2013 (year of publication), focusing on the most dramatic moments in the history of this people.

“Filastin. The art of resistance of the Palestinian cartoonist Naji al Ali”

Filastin in Arabic means Palestine. Naji al-Ali is one of her sons and as a child he had to leave her to become a refugee, like the majority of Palestinians, due to the proclamation of the State of Israel. Filastin is the land where he has not been able to return and is the center of all his artistic work but “not only in the geographical sense, but also human and symbolic, that is, the right cause wherever it is in the world”. Naji al-Ali was assassinated in London in 1987 for those political ideas that he strongly expressed in his works every day of his life, working for the major newspapers in the Arab world. His goal was to have a direct and daily dialogue with those who lived his own reality: from the Palestinian refugee camp to the great Arab cities. Handala, his most important character, is a real icon of Palestinian resistance and is very popular in Arab countries as in the rest of the world.

Naji al Ali

Consigliato perché: oltre all’importanza di Handala, personaggio creato dallo stesso al Ali e popolarissimo nel mondo arabo e filopalestinese, il libro racconta anche la storia dello stesso al Ali, una delle figure più importanti della cultura palestinese.

“Palestina” by Joe Sacco

A severe detailed reportage of the conditions of the Palestinians during the second Intifada, Joe Sacco ventures throughout Palestine in search of its inhabitants, its people. What he shows us is the everyday reality of those who live there, including humiliations and suffering. Joe Sacco travels from north to south moving through refugee camps to villages now besieged by settlers.


Recommended because: also by virtue of its being a graphic novel, it is one of the works with the greatest impact among those proposed, showing the dramatic daily life that Gaza and the Palestinian people have been forced to live for years.

“State of Siege” by Mahmoud Darwish

State of Siege (Hàlat Hisàr) is a ‘text’, as the author himself defined it, drawn up in Ramallah in January 2002, in the weeks when the city was besieged by the Israeli troops of General Ariel Sharon. Mahmud Darwish, who lived in Ramallah, therefore found himself in the hàla, that is, in the ‘condition’ of being besieged. With this ‘text’ the Palestinian poet does not just want to describe the state of siege, but above all he wants to give substance to the words to express the hala when one finds oneself under siege. The ‘state of the siege’ in Darwish’s verses goes beyond the condition of life in which the concrete multitudes of which the poet is the spokesman are found, expressing their feelings and thoughts. The result is that the ‘text’ is made up of fragments that sometimes resonate like ancient aphorisms, often laments of loneliness, all with at their core the thought of death which also runs through Darwish’s entire work. They are the object of reflection: the poetry in its making, the history, the ‘place’, that is the space of thought, the strength that is imprinted in the affirmation of one’s identity.


Recommended because: in addition to being, in my personal opinion, Darwish’s best collection of poems in Italian, it narrates very well a historical moment in the Palestinian epic, also in this case observed from the inside.

“The Book of Disappearance” by Ibtisam Azem

The mystery surrounds an unprecedented fact: around midnight on any given night, all Palestinians suddenly disappear, evaporated. It is not known what happened to drivers, laborers, doctors and nurses, young and old. What could happen to the Israelis if the Palestinians were no longer, at the same time, the enemy, the scapegoat, the alibi? What happens when the enemy disappears in your life? Palestinian writer Ibtisam Azem is the author of one of the most innovative novels on the Arab literary scene.

The Book of Disapearance

Recommended because: very often we are used to imagining Palestinians and Israelis as entities that meet only on the battlefield, when between the two there is, like it or not, a profound bond, which leads the former to be indispensable for the latter and this must be an ideological level (much of what Israel is today owes it to the fear, justified or not, of a perennial conflict or an imminent attack) and on a purely economic level; Palestinians in Israel are in fact often the workforce and without them there would be significant problems for their business models. Also valuable is the description of Jaffa before the arrival of the Zionists, a way to look at today’s Tel Aviv with decidedly different eyes.

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