What We Are Reading Today: An Oral History of the Palestinian Nakba by Nahla Abdo and Nur Masalha

Updated 18 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: An Oral History of the Palestinian Nakba by Nahla Abdo and Nur Masalha

  • The collection gives new insights into the Palestinian experience of the Nakba and the wider dynamics of the conflict, which continue to this day

The 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call “the catastrophe” was bound to unleash a flurry of new works, of which this is one, about the mass evictions of Palestinians from lands that were taken to establish the state of Israel. 

It could be said that history not only changed for Palestinians in 1948, but ended. Still stateless seven decades on, for them the bitterness and trauma are as raw as ever.

Efforts at preserving the memory of the Nakba have resulted in an unparalleled body of oral testimony. 

The editors of this book have tapped into that rich seam to tell the story of this epochal event through the words of those who lived through it. There are contemporary accounts from 1948 and accounts related in the present day as memories. 

The collection also gives new insights into the Palestinian experience of the Nakba and the wider dynamics of the conflict, which continue to this day. 

The Nakba is the pivotal event shaping Palestinian identity and galvanizing resistance. This book shows that it is by no means consigned to the past, but an ongoing, pernicious process aimed at the erasing of Palestinian history and memory.


‘Tales of Yusuf Tadrus’ — the story of a struggling artist with bills to pay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Tales of Yusuf Tadrus’ — the story of a struggling artist with bills to pay

  • Esmat’s novel is a glimpse into the life of an artist, his constant attempt to merge imagination with reality and the life of a Coptic-Christian in Egypt

CHICAGO: Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2016, Adel Esmat’s “Tales of Yusuf Tadrus” is the story of a young man from the city of Tanta that sits in the Nile Delta. Yusuf struggles to find a balance between his dream of oil painting, canvases and light with his reality of teaching English, providing for a family and attempting to understand where he stands in the world. 

Esmat’s novel is a glimpse into the life of an artist, his constant attempt to merge imagination with reality and the life of a Coptic-Christian in Egypt.

Beginning every chapter with “Yusuf Tadrus Says,” Esmat delves deep into the life of his protagonist, a young man whose very birth leaves him uneasy in life. Knowing his mother had not intended on having children and had devoted her life to God, Yusuf believes he is destined to be extraordinary and embarks on a complicated journey in art and life.

Esmat’s portrayal of Yusuf’s struggle is intimate and detailed. Yusuf is an extremely introspective, introverted character, whose world clashes with his art as it takes him from Tanta to Alexandria, back to Tanta and as far as Al-Tur.

Esmat insightfully narrates an incredible story of struggle and longing. He paints a picture of Egypt, especially Tanta, of the alley where Yusuf grew up on Ghayath Al-Din Street and his family life, his mother who collects contributions for the Holy Bible Association, and his father, Khawaga Tadrus Bushra, donning a Saidi jallabeya, a skullcap and a white scarf as he sells dry beans and seeds. Yusuf spends his childhood riding his bicycle with friends, collecting contributions with his mother, experiencing the Six-Day War and winning a painting competition that brings him to the Palace of Culture on Al-Bahr Street where he learns to draw and, eventually, paint.

Esmat creates in Yusuf a multifaceted character who is both the protagonist and antagonist in his own story, tormented between a dream and reality against the backdrop of an unforgiving society.