Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Palestinian literature festival: a call for celebrating books and writers from the homeland

By Ary Gotlib - November 09, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Culture] [IN PICTURES]
Tags: [culture]

Kalimat – The Palestinian Literature Festival took place from November 3 - 7.

On November 5, five authors from various disciplines engaged in a discussion on 'The Personal and the Political’ at the Franco-German Cultural Institute in Ramallah.

In attendance was Salim Tamari (Palestinian writer and sociologist), Gavin Françis (Scottish physician and non-fiction writer), Sylwia Chutnik (Polish essayist and writer), Asmaa Azaizeh (Palestinian journalist and poet) and Susan Abulhawa (Palestinian American Writer, poet and essayist – who was present only via internet due to the Israeli authorities denying her entry to the country).

For the third day (the first and second took place respectively in Jerusalem and Nablus) of this event, the Robert Schuman room was full with over one hundred people attending. For Toufic Haddad, organizer of the evening, the calling to 'promote literature, the poet, essayist and journalist’ who feed 'hopes and dignity’ was heard.

Asmaa Azaizeh, received a warm welcome by reading three of her poems in Arabic.

“With Palestinian literature, it is not the heroic stories which are hegemonic but, the trivial, non-heroic stories that recount the Palestinian life on a daily basis,” said Salim Tamari to an attentive audience. For Lily Habash (on the left) “Palestinian literature is still creative, which is a sign of health.”

This evening was also a celebration of books which are “a source of motivation and a new homeland for every Palestinian,” according to Toufic Haddad. 

“As you all know by now, Israeli authorities have denied me entry into my country and I am therefore unable to attend the festival. It pains me greatly not to be with my friends and fellow writers to explore and celebrate our literary traditions with readers and with each other in our homeland. It pains me that we can meet anywhere in the world except in Palestine, the place to which we belong,” Susan Abulhawa said, reading her Facebook statement. After reading some of her text, she reminded the audience that “writing is always a private and political thing, we didn’t exist outside this context, even if we don’t have conscious of it.”

After 90 minutes of presentation, the five writers answered the audience’s questions. “Until I was 18 years old, I had never heard about the Nakba or Mahmoud Darwish at school but we spent a lot of time [learning] about the history of the Holocaust. Only literature permitted me to discover my own history and open my eyes to it,” Asmaa Azaizeh said. 

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