BOOK REVIEW: Nine Palestinian refugees tell Shatila’s stories in this innovative book

Updated 17 July 2018
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BOOK REVIEW: Nine Palestinian refugees tell Shatila’s stories in this innovative book

  • “Shatila Stories” is a collaborative work of fiction written by nine refugees from the Shatila camp in Beirut

CHICAGO: A novel born in extraordinary circumstances, “Shatila Stories” is a collaborative work of fiction written by nine refugees from the Shatila camp in Beirut that was commissioned by Peirene Press.

The authors, ranging from the ages of 20 to 43, captivate the reader by painting a picture of muddied walkways, crumbling walls and desperate faces.

From beginning to end, the phenomenal words of Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbaqi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud and Hiba Mareb take the reader on a powerful journey. 

“Shatila Stories” begins with the character of Reham, who is leaving Damascus for Beirut. She and her family look to Shatila as a refuge from the strife at the Yarmouk camp in Syria. Reham’s story is embedded in spirituality and faith, a strength that drives many of the book’s characters. After Reham, the reader is told the story of Jafra, named after the revolutionary Palestinian fighter who was killed in an airstrike in 1976. 

Evil lurks within the boundaries of the Shatila camp — children are exploited, disease is rampant and the methods used to safeguard residents are sometimes more harmful than helpful.

The writers have done a brilliant job of conveying the constricted yet vibrant lives led by many in the camp, as they wander alleyways that are “narrow yet wide enough to hold a thousand stories.”

The effort to publish nine refugee writers began with Mieke Ziervogel, publisher of Peirene Press, who journeyed from London to Beirut with editor Suhir Helal after getting in contact with an NGO that runs a community center in the camp. 

After handpicking the writers during a three-day workshop, the manuscripts were received and translator Nasha Gowanlock got to work. It was a Herculean effort that reminds us that storytelling may be an art, but everyone has a story to tell.


What We Are Reading Today: Art and the Second World War

Updated 10 December 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Art and the Second World War

Author: Monica Bohm-Duchen

Art and the Second World War is the first book in English to provide a comprehensive and detailed international overview of the complex and often disturbing relationship between war and the fine arts during this crucial period of modern history.     
This generously illustrated volume starts by examining the art produced in reaction to the Spanish Civil War (often viewed as “the first battle of World War II“), and then looks at painting, sculpture, prints, and drawing in each of the major combatant nations, including Japan and China. Breathtaking in scope, this scholarly yet accessible publication places wartime art within its broader cultural, political, and military contexts while never losing sight of the power and significance of the individual image and the individual artist.
Monica Bohm-Duchen’s thought-provoking analysis ranges from iconic paintings such as Picasso’s Guernica to unfamiliar works by little-known artists. She reinstates war art by major artists as an integral part of their oeuvres and examines neglected topics such as the art produced in the Japanese-American and British internment camps.