Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
The first part of Minor Detail recounts the rape and killing of a nameless young Palestinian woman by Jewish soldiers in 1949. It’s a grim, impersonal and violent episode - a war crime that could have been committed by any group of soldiers in the years since WW2, especially when the enemy are seen as less than human: the British in Iraq, the Americans in Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan (just three examples that come to mind). It’s just a little war crime, “this minor detail, which others might not give a second thought”, which, in the second half of this novel, is investigated by a nameless Palestinian woman from Ramallah. A woman who can’t identify borders, “even very rational borders” which inevitably means she, “can no longer fathom what is permissible and what is not, and end up trespassing even more borders”. It’s this guilelessness, however, that pushes her forward. Her investigation, an act of memory, a piecing together of a narrative few care to remember and certainly not the occupiers whose best interests are served by erasure and then silence. As she ventures across occupied territory she notes, “It’s been a long time since I passed through here, and wherever I look, all the changes reassert the absence of anything Palestinian”. At the end of her journey, she’s close, close to the scene of the crime and close to another generation of Jewish soldiers. Adania Shibli leaves you with a host of questions that encompass both this superb and beautifully translated novel and the history of the Palestinian people. Minor Detail is a major (and timely) novel and totally recommended.
Minor Detail - Adania Shibli (translated by Elisabeth Jaquette) - publ. by Fitzcarraldo Editions - £10.99