Belletrista Blog

An evening with Suad Amiry

October 26, 2010

I’ve just spent an hour or so in the company of Suad Amiry, a Palestinain writer best known for her book Sharon and My Mother-in-Law which describes her family’s experiences during the 43 day curfew imposed on the residents of Ramallah by the Israeli army in March 2002. Amiry is in London to promote her new book, Nothing to Lose But Your Life: An 18 Hour Journey with Murad. I saw her being interviewed by Jo Glanville (Editor of ‘Index on Censorship’) at the Southbank Centre.

Amiry is a fantastic storyteller. She uses the stories of individuals to illustrate the desperate situation Palestinians have to live in, concerned to show the real texture of life in Palestine rather than the single stories of victim or aggressor that she believes have led to Palestine becoming a cliché. The stories she recounts are often humorous; she rebels against the situation by making fun of it, saying that in Palestine you either laugh or cry – there is nothing in between.

Intelligent and forthright, Amiry does not pull any punches when talking about Israel and the land they have stolen from her people. She became visibly upset when recounting how her father returned to the home he lost in 1948 only to find that the family now living there would not let him in to the house. Her anger and incomprehension also came through clearly. Why, she asked, don’t Israelis notice that for Palestinians to accept the idea of a two state solution is a huge step?

Amiry’s new book is about the 18 hours she spent with young Palestinian men as they entered Israel illegally to find work. As well as being incredibly dangerous (people have been shot dead trying to cross the wall that Israel has erected between territories) this experience has given her a new perspective on her country’s future. While she feels uncomfortable in Israel, her young companions move easily between the two cultures with little fear. Perhaps these migrant workers, and the thousands of others like them, will enable a solution to be reached one day.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Char

    One thing that I’ve been thinking about since I saw Suad Amiry speak on Tuesday night is her response to an audience question. She was asked something relating to the Israel-Palestine question which she answered with the comment that artists/writers/musicians are always asked the political questions.

    I can see why this would irritate – after all she was there to talk about her book, and why should she be considered as the mouthpiece for her whole country?

    But writers and other creatives are often the only people that we (‘we’ being the general public in other countries) get to meet and talk to. We’d never have this kind of access to politicians or diplomats. And Amiry has written books about conditions created by a very politically charged situation.

    Are we guilty of unfairly making people like Suad Amiry into spokespeople for a nation or do writers and artists have to accept that they are representatives of their country or of a political viewpoint?

  • Jana

    Sounds really interesting. I will have to look for her books.

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