The Book of Gaza

Atef Abu Saif (editor)

translated from the Arabic
Comma Press 2014
A book review by Danny Yee © 2016
Set in Gaza and written by residents, the ten stories in The Book of Gaza span the last forty years, from the mid 1970s through to the present. Only a few of the stories address the occupation and the intifada directly (and a brief introduction situates Gaza's literary history in that context), but there is a broader recurring theme of constraint, both social and geographical. Picking up on that, a nice complement to the stories is provided by David Eckersall's modernist cityscape cover and Mohamed Abusal's illustrations, with abstract details of street maps and a plan for a Gaza metro system. And half the stories are by women.

There's a good variety, with stories relying on plot twists, settings, and characters (who range from taxi drivers and prostitutes to collectors and children) and with variation in mood and style, with stories comic and tragic, straightforward and ambiguous. The style of some of the stories may be unsettling to those unfamiliar with Arabic fiction, but a short anthology like this makes a good introduction to that. And, while some of the stories are more appealing than others, the successes outnumber the failures and are much more memorable.

The stories in The Book of Gaza are genuinely short, with the longest only sixteen pages, but it makes a nice little collection, conveying something of both the hidden depths and the open breadths of one of the world's stranger urban areas.

July 2016

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%T The Book of Gaza
%E Saif, Atef Abu
%M Arabic
%I Comma Press
%D 2014
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781905583645
%P 127pp