You can never go home again. That's the message in this impressionistic memoir by a Palestinian poet returning to the West Bank after 30 years of exile. Barghouti was in Cairo at the university when Israel won the Six-Day War and didn't return home until 1996, when the now-defunct Oslo Accords allowed him to go back. As one might expect, his return to see his birthplace and his family is fraught with problems, as he attempts to reconnect with relatives and friends. The people living in Ramallah and its physical geography have changed in ways that make Barghouti feel as displaced at home as he does abroad. The changes he blames partly on the weakness of his own people, but mostly on the Israelis. The truth of Palestinian faults "does not absolve the enemy of his original crime...." Indeed, the anger he feels at Israelis on both the left and the right helps explain why the Oslo peace process failed and why peace seems as elusive as ever. But this is as much a personal journey as a political one. Using a poet's eye for detail and language (the book is beautifully translated), Barghouti, who now lives in Cairo, intersperses the story of his homecoming with his history of journeys across the Arab world. "The displaced person becomes a stranger to his memories and so he tries to cling to them." His deft mind and words show how, for many Palestinians, politics have swallowed up the personal. (May 13) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A Palestinian poet, Barghouti crosses a bridge, returning to Jordan after an absence of 30 years. In this book, he tells what it feels like to be a Palestinian today, with feelings of displacement, of injustice gnawing at the core of his being. The ground on which he walks, his ancestral home, has been disputed territory since "the disaster of 1947" and subsequent lost battles in 1967 and 1973. His stay in Jordan is full of procedures, the need to get permissions, and of an overwhelming feeling that all is not right. Though only brief passages are written in verse form, this is a poetic book. It is full of memories and of deep anger at the passing away of things that once were. There is no full reunion with his family, as one might expect of such a homecoming, though he attends an event that he calls a family reunion. There is talk of the Intifada and a struggle for survival in the midst of political upheaval. Barghouti is a man of the world, taking up the burdens of his country in the writing of this volume. It is not a hopeful book, but rather an insider's personal view of a conflict that is reported in much more superficial, public terms in the media. This is beautifully written, but sad in its overall view of a future governed by intractable problems. KLIATT Codes: SA;Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Random House, Anchor, 184p., Boardman
Of the many books written in the past few decades about the plight of the Palestinians, this one is unique in that the author, a well-known Palestinian poet, brings to life the pain and suffering of exiles in a way that few books in English have been able to do. When the book first appeared in Arabic in 1997, it received universal praise in the Arab world and eventually won the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. As a student at Cairo University, the author found himself barred from returning home after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the occupation of the West Bank by the Israeli military. When Barghouti (who now lives in Cairo) was finally allowed to return for a brief visit to his homeland in the summer of 1996, he experienced the mix of emotions that define the life of any exile, ranging from joy to sadness to anger. The author's extraordinary ability to express his feelings, and by implication those of other Palestinians, in moving essays is what makes this book such an eloquent account of Palestinian existence today. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
An elegiac memoir, by a Palestinian intellectual and poet, of life in a land torn by war. Then a university student in Cairo, Barghouti was denied permission to return to his native city of Ramallah, on the West Bank, following the Six-Day War in 1967. Now one of the naziheen, or "displaced ones," he spent the next 30 years abroad, "afflicted by a Bedouin traveling, and I am not a Bedouin. I have never been able to collect my own library. I have moved between houses and furnished apartments, and become used to the passing and the temporary." On finally returning to Ramallah in the summer of 1996, Barghouti writes, he could recognize his old city only in outline, for the place, once an Arab suburb of Jerusalem, was now scarcely more than a ghost town ringed by Israeli settlements. "How many cities have wilted?" he mourns. "How many homes have not been kept up? How many bookshops could have been set up in Ramallah, how many theaters? The Occupation kept the Palestinian village static and turned our cities back into villages." Barghouti locates the blame for this reversal of fortune in the rightist governments of Rabin and Sharon, and his sense of aggrieved victimhood makes only a little allowance for such peace-inhibiting elements as suicide bombers and the PLO. He does suggest, subtly, that his fellow intellectuals aligned themselves too closely with the Arafat government, which has been none too democratic. ("He mends what is broken, rebuilds what is ruined, and chooses his supporters and enemies from among the people. Why, he even arrests citizens sometimes, imprisons them, and . . . tortures them.") And he does allow that his side is not blameless: "I am certain that we were not alwaysa beautiful natural scene. But this truth does not absolve the enemy of his original crime that is the beginning and the end of this evil." Neither precious nor propagandistic: for readers on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.
“The most eloquent statement in English of what it is like to be a Palestinian today. . . . No other book so well explains the background to recent events in Palestine/Israel.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“An important literary event. . . . One of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement that we now have.” —Edward W. Said, from the Foreword
“Forceful, lyrical, evocative. . . . A wonderful read.” —The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
“Stirring. . . . Poignant. . . . Compelling. . . . I Saw Ramallah is a magnificent addition to world literature. It is picturesque and lifelike. Its evocative images touch, move, and inspire.” –Middle East Studies Association Bulletin
“Marvelous. . . . A beautifully constructed and moving memoir.” –Al-Ahram Weekly
“An honest and lyrical account from the Palestinian Diaspora. . . . This book describes in detail the damage done to the Palestinian people in the most beautiful prose. . . . Because of his frankness and calm tone, Barghouti has ensured that this life story will stay with the reader a long time after all the shouting and politicking stops.” –Cairo Times
“A rare memoir. . . . Humane and eloquent.” –In These Times