November 15, 2006

Exile from Palestine

Exile has formed some of the most exquisite works of world literature from the psalms and the Odyssey onwards. Notable in the modern era, Milan Kundera's view of the exiles returning after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe makes for an especially poignant read. After reading Kundera, its fascinating to turn to this short story by Zakaria Mohammad. Like Kundera, Mohammad treats exile less as an unambiguous experience of the wonder of return than as a very ambiguous event. This is not a story but an impressionistic piece of writing about what it feels like to go home after so many years- and find that everything has changed, even one's own relation to one's own place of residence. Like the poet Ka in Orhan Pamuk's Snow, Mohammad returns only to find even individuals are not the same as when he left them- there is an interesting counterposition in that Mohammad wishes to return as a tourist dispassionately understanding a situation, but his failure to return, his failure to reconnect with a landscape that seems artificially deformed by Israeli settlements and checkpoints, makes his return the emotional event he feared. He is forced out of his dispassionate existance as a tourist, just as he is forced out of his western name. Forced to wear uneasily the garb of a Palestinian despite always feeling an exile as well- he has a wonderful image for this, he describes himself as a bird with two wings, one of which is his Palestinian heritage, the other his exiled self- the problem the story focuses on is his effort to fly balanced upon both wings and not just one.

Incidentally this short story comes from a collection words without borders which is worth looking at for the access to various short stories and poems in transalation and worth looking at for works from all over the world. I hope to quite frequently highlight interesting stuff from there in this blog- but do take a look at things yourself. Literature afterall is one of the best ways into another person's set of sensibilities and circumstances. Oh and I should include reference to Chandharas who looked at some earlier stories posted on the site and thereby introduced me to it.

5 comments:

ashok said...

Thank you for your comment on my "academy destroyed itself" post.

Please explain - and I'm not meaning to be hostile here, just advancing a counterfactual - how your training doesn't fall squarely under the critique advanced in that post.

edmund said...

it sounds like a good work- It'd be very interesing to read some on the expences of returning sephardic jewish refugess from the arab countries-though of course at the moment they'd have to be completely ficionalized since they have no real chance of even visiting...

Gracchi said...

Ashok I'll come back to your post in a second- perhaps I should have read it more carefully- but I'll go back and discuss it on your post. I'd also reccomend people go over from here and read the piece- its very well written.

Edmund yes it is a good piece of work and it would be nice to read to some Sephardic Jewish stuff as well- I think this kind of literature is always really interesting though.

Sunny said...

interesting post...itreminds me of the sad, unfortunate history of the Palestinians

Gracchi said...

Yeah its one of the things which really made me conceive of their suffering- I always find it hard to work out abstract numbers but when you can put a voice to it it becomes much more easy to understand.