Review: 'Gaza Weddings' is about finding hope in dark times

“Gaza Weddings” by Ibrahim Nasrallah tells the powerful story of finding hope in the darkest of times.
Updated 07 April 2018

Review: 'Gaza Weddings' is about finding hope in dark times

  • This novel tells the beautiful yet devastating tale of families living in Gaza
  • Author Ibrahim Nasrallah is a poet, novelist and literary critic
“Gaza Weddings” by Ibrahim Nasrallah is a beautiful yet devastating tale of families living in Gaza. The book is dominated by strong women — neighbors Randa, Lamis and Amna — who manage to keep life moving forward as the occupation crushes both the city and the spirit of its people.
Nasrallah is a poet, novelist and literary critic. He is the author of several collections of poetry, as well as 14 novels. This book was first published in 2004 by the Arab Institute of Research and Publishing as the third part of his Palestinian series, following “Time of the White Horses” and “The Lanterns of the King Galilee.” The book was translated by Nancy Roberts and published at the end of last year by Hoopoe, an imprint of the American University of Cairo Press.
Nearly every male figure in the lives of Nasrallah’s main characters are absent from his book, either on the run, in jail, missing or martyred, as the women dominate the scope of hope and resilience amidst the never-ending bombardment. At the forefront are neighbors Randa, an aspiring journalist, her sister Lamis, and Amna, or Umm Saleh, who looks like Egyptian actress Athar Al-Hakim and works as a supervisor at a rehabilitation center. Their lives are pieced together poetically by Nasrallah as the shattering reality of life under occupation is revealed on every page.
Nasrallah’s book is a long poem, the power of his verse and female characters palpable, as intense as the distress in their lives. The men are physically, mentally and emotionally beat, so the women are the ones who are picking them up and rallying for life.
The heartbreaking stories in Nasrallah’s book are overwhelming — of homes being destroyed, people losing their lives due to clashes with settlers and multiple women mourning at a grave of an unknown victim but assumed loved one. His every word is purposeful, to convey the conviction in survival and the grief that inevitably follows. The days and nights all blend into one when tragedy after tragedy befalls the women, but they do not allow their anguish to stop them.
Nasrallah writes of a reality that sounds like a nightmare. The conditions of life under occupation are torturously painful, but his characters are a source of strength. They are the light in a world of darkness.

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Less,’ by Andrew Sean Greer

Updated 30 min 50 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Less,’ by Andrew Sean Greer

“Less” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last week and was a surprising choice because few comic novels have won the prestigious award.

The judges’ citation describes it as “a generous book, musical in its prose and expansive in its structure and range, about growing older and the essential nature of love.”

The book follows Arthur Less, a failed novelist about to turn 50.

When he receives a wedding invitation from his boyfriend of nine years ago, he decides instead to run away from his problems by attending a few half-baked literary events around the world.

He will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself in as a writer-in-residence at a Christian retreat center in Southern India, and have a chance encounter on a desert island in the Arabian Sea.

Andrew Sean Greer began this comic masterpiece as a very serious novel about being gay and aging.

“But after a year, I just couldn’t do it,” he told The Washington Post. “It sounds strange but what I was writing about was so sad to me that I thought the only way to write about this was to make it a funny story.”