Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Representations of Jerusalem in the Modern Palestinian Novel

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Representations of Jerusalem in the Modern Palestinian Novel

Article excerpt

THIS ESSAY STUDIES THE TEXTUAL representations of the City of Jerusalem in the modern Palestinian novel. It is generally guided by Blanche Houseman Gelfant's deductive framework of the city novel. Gelfant has suggested that "through literary practice, if not through literary theory," three patterns of the city novel have emerged: the "portrait" novel, which reveals the city through the struggles of a single character; the "synoptic" novel, which reveals the total city immediately as a personality in itself; and the "ecological" novel, "which focuses upon one small spatial unit such as a neighborhood or a city block and explores in detail the manner of life identified with this place." (1)

The City of Jerusalem, like any other, can be represented by any combination of attributes historically, culturally, geographically, and spatially associated with its setting, and how this setting as a "physical place", as an "atmosphere", and as a total "way of life", as Gelfant's theory implies, makes distinctive impressions upon the mind and the senses and sets the values and manners which may "mold character and destiny". (2) For this purpose, I have chosen five representative modern Palestinian novels to exemplify, on the one hand, the three deductive types of the "city novel" in terms of the formation and domination of the setting, and to represent, on the other hand, in terms of their narrative and chronological time, the three major political periods of the Palestinian national history in the second half of the twentieth century; the 1948 upheaval, the 1967 war, and the 1987 uprising, intifadah. Jabra Ibrahim Jabra's novels Hunters in a Narrow Street (published 1960), and The Ship (1970) fall into the "portrait" type and historically cover Jerusalem during the first period. Mahmoud Shugair's novel Another Shadow for the City (1998) falls into the "synoptic" type and covers Jerusalem, retrospectively, during the second period. Ahmad Harb's novel The Other Side of the Promised Land (1990) falls into the "ecological" type and represents Jerusalem during the third period. In addition, 1 will include Izzat Ghazzawi's novel, Nebo Mountain (1996), as an example of "allegory" which has its own metaphorical poetics of representation that hardly fits any of these types.

I should clarify, however, that in my application of Gelfant's types of the "city novel" to Jerusalem-related Palestinian novels, I have used the term "city" to assess the various levels of Jerusalem's dominant presence as a setting, with all its composite elements, without particularly suggesting that the "city" in association with the Palestinian literary representation of Jerusalem is an urban, industrialized, "socially heterogeneous", and impersonal "settlement", (3) as the term may essentially mean. This clarification is of paramount importance in order to have a proper grasp of the Palestinian spatial poetics of representation. It is worth noting that the City of Jerusalem, in most of the Palestinian literature I have researched for this study, including the selected novels, figures out as a "countryside" continual with the Palestinian expansive landscape or a "village" with distinctive topographical, religious, and historical sites. One way to explain the non-urban representation of Jerusalem in Palestinian literature is perhaps to examine the Palestinian historical and national experience of confrontation with Zionism as colonial settler movement. Urbanism has been so linked in the Palestinians' imagination with the Zionist colonization of the land and hence their loss and eviction; it is the death "machine in the[ir] garden", to borrow Marx Leo's metaphor. (4) While country life, in opposition, has been linked with freedom and sublimity of Palestine and the deep identification of its people with the land. (5)

Furthermore, in the Palestinian national consciousness, Jerusalem is inseparable from its geographical landscape, that is the whole country of Palestine. …

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