The Book of Gaza: A City in Short Fiction (Reading the City)

Atef Abu Saif

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Under the Israeli occupation of the '70s and '80s, writers in Gaza had to go to considerable lengths to ever have a chance of seeing their work in print. Manuscripts were written out longhand, invariably under pseudonyms, and smuggled out of the Strip to Jerusalem, Cairo or Beirut, where they then had to be typed up. Consequently, fiction grew shorter, novels became novellas, and short stories flourished as the city's form of choice. Indeed, to Palestinians elsewhere, Gaza became known as 'the exporter of oranges and short stories'.

This anthology brings together some of the pioneers of the Gazan short story from that era, as well as younger exponents of the form, with ten stories that offer glimpses of life in the Strip that go beyond the global media headlines; stories of anxiety, oppression, and violence, but also of resilience and hope, of what it means to be a Palestinian, and how that identity is continually being reforged; stories of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what many have called 'the largest prison in the world'.

Translated from the Arabic by Tom Aplin, Charis Bredin, Emily Danby, Alexa Firat, Alice Guthrie, Katharine Halls, Sarah Irving, Elisabeth Jaquette, John Peate, Adam Talib, and Max Weiss.

Review

'A welcome reminder of the universality of human relations.' --The Guardian

'Tales that reflect that depth and the variety and universality of the Gazan experience.' --The Irish Times

'This is a collection that contains within its pages a more subtle thread than what we that is, those of us who do not know the feel of Gazan soil beneath our feet are used to, which is something altogether less subtle and more like a bold attack on our senses from time to time.' --Lacuna Magazine

About the Author

Atef Abu Saif was born in Jabaia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in 1973. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Birzeit and a master's degree from Bradford. Recently, he received his Ph.D. in political and social sciences from the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author of four novels: Shadows in the Memory (1997), The Tale of the Harvest Night (1999), Snowball (2000), and The Salty Grape of Paradise (2003 & 2006). He also published a collection of short stories entitled Everything is Normal. Abu Seif is also the author of Civil Society and the State: Theoretical Perspective with Particular Reference to Palestine, published in Amman in 2005. He is a regular contributor to several Palestinian and Arabic newspapers and journals.

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