Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Review: Ghassan Zaqtan’s ‘Describing the Past’

The Electronic Intifada, 3rd October 2016

The theme of the unstable balance between myth and memory recurs constantly throughout the novella.
“Things evaporate and die if they don’t find someone to remember them,” Zaqtan comments through his narrator.
But the same unnamed character tells of many examples which question what exactly “remembering” means in this context.
There is, for instance, his uncle, known as “The Iraqi” for his obsessive claims to have helped a battalion of Iraqi troops in northern Palestine during the war of 1948.
As Zaqtan makes plain, the wider events described are real, commemorated in a monument which stands in the West Bank city of Jenin.
But his uncle’s tales – which grow grander in scale as the events recede into the historical past – are more doubtful, as the aging man creates a dreamlike past for himself.

The full article is here.

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