Palestine’s greatest prose writer reflects on hope and disillusion in his home city 50 years after the Israeli invasion
Ramallah, in the heart of the West Bank, is only a few miles north of Jerusalem, its nose pressed up against the dashes of Palestine’s borders on the maps, official markers of the city’s – and the country’s – provisional nature. It is a place of scarcely 30,000 inhabitants, historically a Christian city (although now the majority are Muslim) and also one of cold winters and carefully tended gardens, chosen by the PLO as its de facto headquarters following the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995. It is, above all, a city of authors, home to Palestine’s greatest poet, the late Mahmoud Darwish, and the man we can now recognise as its greatest prose writer, Raja Shehadeh.
Shehadeh won the Orwell prize for his 2007 book Palestinian Walks and published a powerful memoir of a cross-border friendship, Where the Line Is Drawn, in 2017. These books built on earlier memoirs, Strangers in the House and When the Bulbul Stopped Singing, written at the beginning of the century, during the second intifada, when any optimism that the Oslo agreements might bring peace had died, and a new kind of hope gripped Palestine – that desperate and violent resistance might succeed where political negotiation had failed.
Link : Going Home by Raja Shehadeh review – rich, sad reflections from Ramallah