Belletrista Blog


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.