Book Reviews

Selma Dabagg's Out of It

Salma Dabagg, is a British Palestinian author based in London. She has been writing short stories since many years which have been published in many anthologies around the world including Granta and the British Council. She was nominated as English PEN for the International PEN David T. K. Wong Award. Out of It is her maiden novel reflecting Israel- Palestinian conflict in a most honest and riveting tales. It tells the lives of the people under occupation and who are struggling in a horrific way in their day-to-day lives. According to Ahdaf Soueif, author of The Map of Love, Out of It is ‘an original and vivid voice.’

The novel opens abruptly, with the Israeli attack on Gaza leaving the people of the city in a very panic state rescuing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Gaza as Robin Yassin Kassab says is:

“like dried-out coral, ridged, chambered and sandy.” It contrast with Israel, “the other side, that side, the place they came from, that had been theirs”, which, studded by solar panels, swimming pools and irrigated fields, looks from above like “an elaborate blanket of modernist design.” (web)

The story revolves around the family of Mujaheds, who are in a way more privileged than their neighbours. Like many other Palestinian families they are also itinerant who have learnt to adjust with their surroundings, attaching values to small things. As Kassab expresses, “only to the small things, the ones that could be thrown into suitcases and scurried away with.” Mujaheds are originally inhabitants of Jaffa but have lived in many places such as Tunis, Beirut and Scandinavia and at last placed in Gaza being the witness of the early years of the second intifada.

The family of Mujaheds comprises of four members; three children and a mother whose father is living in Egypt with his girlfriend. Sabri the eldest among the children is working on the Palestinian history from his wheelchair as he lost his legs in one of the bombing by Israeli forces in which his Christian wife and the only son died. Rashed the youngest has received a scholarship to London is willing to escape from the dreadful reality of his country. His twin sister, Iman is frustrated seeing the plight of her people by the atrocities and inaction around her. She is hopeful and willing to make the difference by her own efforts and grabs recklessly an opportunity. Their mother is busy with pickles vegetables and feuds with their neighbours but hiding a reality which is unknown to her family members.

The story revolves around Rashed and Iman as they try to survive and establish themselves in a world full of chaos and uncertainties of lives. They are caught between Palestinian ethos, occupation, religious fundamentalism and the divisions between Palestinian fractions. Studying in best education centres they are not able to detach themselves from the Palestinian struggle for justice against apartheid as they have lived in the midst of all the atrocities committed for the sake of occupation. They are a witness of genocide of their people in the hand of Israeli forces and finally devoting their lives for the Palestinian causes leaving aside their careers.

The novel is a heartrending story of people under occupation, surviving against all odds and adverse situation, struggling to cope up in a situation which is totally against their wish. It is an extraordinary tragic saga put down into the form of novel one can’t imagine. The credit goes to the author in creating such flesh-and-blood characters with their morals and flaws.

Dabagg has tried to nail the details in the novel of the incidents and happenings occurring in the Palestine and the sufferings of the people. Its draws us right into the complexities of the Palestinian people being tormented by the Zionist forces and also into the other part of the Arab world being fragmented due to various reasons. Observer views Out of It as:

A grippling tale of dispossession and belonging, treachery, loyalty and bravery that redefines Palestine and its people.

The novel is praised by many authors around the world as Ahdaf Soueif, the author of ‘The Map of Love’ says:

Driven, fast-paced, edgy ... A narrative of Gaza, it brings a very welcome new voice and new consciousness to the Palestinian story.

Some people view the novel as one of the best work on the Israel-Palestine conflict. It serves as a window to another world.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going on since more than 60 years resulting in the loss of millions of innocent lives. No conflict can be solved by weapons, hope people understand this and there should be peaceful settlement of the issue and may peace be bestowed their forever. 


More by :  Dr. Shamenaz Sheikh

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