Literature of the Palestinian diaspora is flourishing again after a long hiatus as publishers take new interest in poetry and fiction by young Palestinian authors whose works reflect the physical and psychological experiences of living in exile.
Last year, a number of new books in this genre were published, including a novel titled Heaven and Seven Seas, by the Palestinian writer Naji Al-Naji, which was recently included in the graduate studies curriculum at Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Education, in Cairo. Two poetry collections were also published by Zeinat Abu Shaweesh, a Palestinian poet and academic based in Egypt, titled The Lote Tree of Love and A Sleepless Wound, in which she discusses topics of asylum, alienation, and the Palestinian identity. Another poet, Ibtissam Abu Sada, also published a new volume, titled A Tribe of Fatigue (A Caananite Secret).
“Diaspora literature does not pertain only to those who are displaced from their lands, but rather it refers to the human being, with all its epistemological manifestations and interior dimensions,” said Abu Shaweesh. Writing, she added, is “one of life’s dictionaries through which you can decipher our human experiences and probe them through the texts.”
‘The Dream and the Homeland’
Al-Naji’s novel, published by Ibn Roshd, in Cairo, reflects the author’s personal experience. He was born to a Palestinian militant father, in the Yarmouk camp in Syria, before moving to a number of other countries after Syria descended into civil war. (See a related article, “Twice Displaced, Palestinian-Syrians in Egypt Need Help.”)
“The recurrence of the Palestinian asylum experience for the second time in recent years brought back the concerns of the diaspora again,” he said, “so that the Palestinian issue became, for me and other Arab youths, part of the private life of the refugee whose hobby is to remind them of his case.”
Abu Shaweesh believes that writing about Palestine is part of writing about oneself. “It is a case of self-narrated human testimony that crosses time and space, in which you write about an important part of your human identity and your collective vision of the dream and the homeland,” she said.