Book Review: A haunting tale from the shores of Jaffa

Updated 01 October 2019

Book Review: A haunting tale from the shores of Jaffa

CHICAGO: From the shores of Jaffa, where the sea has remained the same but the land has changed, comes a powerful tale of two cities that are one and the same. One city’s memories weave in and out of new buildings and language, and the other overlays ancient street names and former inhabitants, as an old resident complains: “I walk in the city, but it doesn’t recognize me.” 

From Palestinian author and journalist Ibtisam Azem comes “The Book of Disappearance,” a story that follows the life of Alaa Assaf and his family, the children and grandchildren of the only woman in their family to stay in Palestine after 1948.

When the reader meets Alaa and his grandmother, all the Palestinians in Israel, four million people, disappear overnight and are not seen again. Is it a miracle or a security operation? No one knows, but as fear and elation grip Tel Aviv, journalist Ariel tries to look for his friend, freelance cameraman Alaa.

When he cannot find him, Ariel finds his red notebook, the one in which he has written his memoir, in which his memories overlap with his grandmother’s — hers from old Jaffa, and his from new, and the surrounding villages now known as Tel Aviv. As Ariel tries to make sense of the mystery, he reads Alaa’s notebook and Alaa’s grandmother’s past comes to the fore.

Through Alaa, we read of his grandmother’s life in Al-Manshiyye, and later in Ajami, where she and other survivors were surrounded by barbed wire. She did not flee to Beirut but stayed and watched as the city around her left — its people dying or fleeing — and its survivors learned to live the lonely existence of strangers in their own land.

Through his grandmother’s memories, Alaa tries to understand himself and the city he grew up in. He writes about her Jaffa and his, “Two cities impersonating each other. You carved your names in my city, so I feel like I am a returnee from history...”

Azem’s work is powerful, her creativity stretching to far reaching corners and her recollections of an ancient land vivid in the mind. Her characters are resilient but shattered on the inside.


'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' claims No. 1 over 'Joker' in US Box Office

Updated 20 October 2019

'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' claims No. 1 over 'Joker' in US Box Office

  • The film starring grossed $36 million in North America and $117 million internationally in its first weekend in theaters

LOS ANGELES: The Walt Disney Co.'s "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" has knocked "Joker" out of the No. 1 spot at the box office, but just barely.
Studios on Sunday estimate that the film starring Angelina Jolie grossed $36 million in North America and $117 million internationally in its first weekend in theaters. The first film had a much stronger domestic showing, opening to nearly $70 million domestically in 2014.
Warner Bros.' "Joker" landed in second place in its third weekend with $29.2 million. The villain origin story has grossed over $247 million domestically.
Third place went to another sequel, Columbia Pictures' "Zombieland: Double Tap" with $26.7 million. The R-rated comedy comes 10 years after the original.
And in limited release, Taika Waititi's Nazi satire "Jojo Rabbit" opened in five theaters with a strong $350,000.