Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

I Saw Ramallah

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

I Saw Ramallah

Article excerpt

I Saw Ramallah, by Mourid Barghouti. Tr. by Ahdaf Soueif. Foreword by Edward Said. New York and Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2000. of + 184 pages. Gloss to p. 184. $19.95.

Translated from the Arabic Ra'aitu Ramallah, this partial autobiography of Mourid Barghouti is concerned primarily with the author's return trip to his homeland and specifically, to his birthplace, the village of Dar Ghassanah. Through flashbacks provoked by incidents and people he encounters during his visit, Barghouti narrates his life as a refugee following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war-a life of exile and estrangement. Yet, as Edward Said indicates in his foreword, "this narrative at bottom reenacts exile rather than repatriation" (p. xi). The author, too, acknowledges this, wondering whether to label himself, "A visitor? A refugee? A citizen? A guest?" (p. 11).

The title tells it all when considered in the original Arabic version, Ra'aitu Ramallah. The choice of the verb ra'aitu, denotes a quick look, a passing event, an expeditious activity of brief duration. Moreover, it embodies a certain sense of amazement, of disbelief at having been able to see the city that haunts Barghouti's dreams and nightmares.

The element of time is a major motif in this book, as it has been for Palestinians since the 1948 nakba (catastrophe), punctuating their memories of the past and determining their hopes for the future. Barghouti experiences even places in this manner, "the places we desire are only times" (p. 88), a feeling made more poignant by his constant displacement: "I do not live in a place. I live in time, in the components of my psyche" (p. 91).

I Saw Ramallah is narrated on a general level (that of any Palestinian refugee) and a personal level (centered on the extended Barghouti family, as well as on his small immediate family). At the general level, this is the story of a Palestinian student made homeless by the 1967 war, as he happened to be out of the West Bank when the war broke out, losing his right of residence. The author's efforts to return home replicate those of hundreds of Palestinians in a similar situation. In fact, any victim of political upheaval-regardless of his/her country of origin-indeed, any estranged individual, can identify with Barghouti's ordeal. Barghouti's definition of the stranger, too long to quote here (pp. 3-4) is bound to become a classic citation for a displaced person. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.