The Book of Gaza

Edited by Atef Abu Saif

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.

Listen to Atef Abu Saif discuss the history of Gazan writing in an interview for Comma in June:

Actress Grazyna Monvid reads Talal Abu Shawish's story 'RED LIGHTS' :

Listen to Grazyna Monvid read Nayrouz Qarmout's story 'THE SEA CLOAK' :

Abdallah Tayeh's message from Jabaliya Camp, Gaza, recorded ahead the launch events for _The Book of Gaza_. Abdullah was unable to attend the UK events due to the Rafah border being closed.

Watch Atef talk about the book at the Manchester Launch, 7th June 2014:



'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

'If it is hard to imagine that one sentence could capture the distinctiveness of Gaza or belong to it alone, The Book of Gaza, edited by Atef Abu Saif, stimulates such literary-political questions. Therein lies its power: that it registers literary voice from the most densely populated place in the world, which is made up of refugees from Israel’s founding expulsions of 1948, and which is living through the longest illegal occupation in modern times.' - Social Text

'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.

'Today Atef Abu Saif and other contributors to the anthology are among the 1.8 million Gazans caught up in the hellish Israeli onslaught on Gaza by air, sea and land...' The Tanjara Blog
'The Book of Gaza is successful in doing what it sets out to do.' - Gaele Sobott's Blog

'The voice coming through the PA system spoke of freedom. But for one of the speakers scheduled to appear at the Hay Literary Festival last month, there was no such freedom...' - BookerTalk Blog

'“Why does literature matter? Why is it important?” asks Saif before adding, “A prisoner in a refugee camp looking out to sea in Gaza gave me the answer to this eternal question – he said literature gave him hope.” - The National

'At a time when the eyes of the world are turned on the battle being raged over Gaza, it seems entirely appropriate to be reading an anthology of stories by writers from the territory.' - BookerTalk Review

'A beautifully presented collection, with a fresh geometric Etch-a-Sketch cover by David Eckersall, is a discovery of Gazan voices, rich with stories and emotion.' - Electronic Intifada

'Despite Israel’s relentless aerial bombardments, shelling and ground attacks for nearly two weeks, Palestinian writers in Gaza have responded to the latest onslaught by doing what they know – writing.' -Electronic Intifada

'Let's hope that the book reaches a wider audience and manages to fulfill that vitally important task.' - Tony's Reading List

'...a powerful example of Palestinian resilience.' - Jordan Times

Foyles Summer Picks, 2014: 
"In a recent article, the editor of this collection, Atef Abu Saif, argued that “when a human being is made into a number, his or her story disappears.” With this showcase of the Palestinian short story, Abu Saif and Comma Press reveal the people and place behind the mortality statistics. It’s a powerful collection with particularly strong showings from Talal Abu Shawish, Najlaa Ataallah and Ghareeb Asqalani, who achieves something truly astonishing with ‘A Flower for David.’ Once again, Comma have successfully brought the richness of Arabic fiction to the attention anglophone readers.” - Gary Perry, Assistant Head of Fiction, Foyles. 

Interview with Atef in the Middle East Monitor.

Mention of the Guardian review and Najlaa's writing in The Los Angeles Times

Mention of the NYT piece by Noam Chomsky.
(Assisted by Comma and numerous volunteer translators)

'I do not want to be a number' - Atef Abu Saif in The Slate.
'The Children Have Barely Slept' - Atef Abu Saif in Guernica Magazine.
'We wait each night for death to knock at the door' - Atef Abu Saif in The Sunday Times.
'Life Under Fire: Five Days in Gaza' - Atef Abu Saif in The Guardian.
'Eight Days in Gaza: Life and Death in the Gaza Strip' - Atef Abu Saif's in The New York Times.
'We're OK in Gaza' - Atef Abu Saif in Guernica Magazine
'Without Words' - Mona Abu Sharekh in Guernica Magazine.
'Umm Ahmed' - a short story by Nayrouz Qarmout in English PEN's Pen Atlas
'Tomorrow the War Ends' - Najlaa Ataallah in The New Statesman.
'In Gaza We Are Not OK' - Najlaa Ataallah in AGNI online
'Life in War' - Nayrouz Qarmout in English PEN's Pen Atlas.
'My City Burning Peacefully ' - Nayrouz Qarmout in The Electronic Intifada.
'The First Refugee Camp' - Abdallah Tayeh in Diritti Globali.
'The 14th Night (The Massacre)' - Najlaa Atallah in Diritti Globali
'Is 53 Seconds Long Enough to Gather My Soul?' - 17-year-old Rana Mourtaja in The New Internationalist
Fleeing civilians become targets in Shajaiya' - report by Asmaa Al-Ghoul in Al-Monitor.
'Never Ask Me About Peace Again' - Asmaa Al-Ghoul in Al Monitor.
Atef Abu Saif on BBC News 24.
Atef Abu Saif in German ZDF TV.

'After the Devastation' - Atef in The Guardian,(catch-up piece).

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Red Lights

Book Details

5 Jun 2014