REVIEW: “Final Warning” by Talal Abu Shawish

Review of Talal Abu Shawish, Mohamed Ghalaieny (trans.), “Final Warning”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 161-169 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Every morning the citizens of Ramallah bathe their eyes in the rising sunlight. No one expects a morning to come when the sun doesn’t rise. There is no light, there is no power, electronics do not work, engines do not work, everything in the city has come to a standstill. Apocalypse has come.

But only to Palestine. A message comes to the region: “Cut it out” (p. 168). The earth’s rotation will be restored, the power of electron-based energy will be restored — but only when the borders are redrawn and everyone commits to justice. This isn’t just about Palestine, though: This is the only way to prevent the entire galaxy from succombing to nihilism.

Ramallah is a multi-faith city, filled with Muslims, Christians, and Jews, as well as athiests, and Abu Shawish explores the ways in which the end of the world is interpreted through each of the three lenses.

Two footnotes explain to the non-Arabic-speaking reader some terminology left untranslated.

REVIEW: “Application 39” by Ahmed Masoud

Review of Ahmed Masoud, “Application 39”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 117-141 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I said in the review of the anthology that as a whole, the stories are dark and not very hopeful. This is one that bucks the trend — alternating hopeful and hilarious — for the first half of the story, at least. Rayyan and Ismael pull a prank: They submit an application to the International Olympic Committee for the State of Gaza (by now its own independent city-state) to host the summer Olympics in 2048 — only eight years away. What neither of them ever dreamt is that the application would be taken seriously and be successful. For the first four years, planning goes smoothly, even ahead of schedule! But Gaza isn’t without its enemies, and in the final four years before the games, it becomes increasingly clear those enemies won’t let the games go off without a hitch, and both Rayyan and Ismael are caught in the center of it all. By the end of the story, it was no longer very hopeful at all.

REVIEW: “Vengeance” by Tasnim Abutabikh

Review of Tasnim Abutabikh, “Vengeance”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 103-116 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Ahmed is on a vengeance mission, to track down the descendant of the man who betrayed one of his ancestors. When he finds the man in question, Yousef Abdulqader, he plays the long game, seeking employment with Abdulqader (who makes prosthetic limbs and other devices) and gaining his trust, until one day he follows Abdulqader to a secret meeting with a terrorist leader, photographs him, and turns in the evidence to the police. Finally, he’s got this vengeance.

But of course, no story is ever as simple as that, and the complicating twist in this one is desperately heartbreaking.

REVIEW: “Personal Hero” by Abdalmuti Maqboul

Review of Abdalmuti Maqboul, Yasmine Seale (trans.) “Personal Hero”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 95-102 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I think I ended up reading this story three times over. The first time, every few paragraphs I paused and reread what I had just read, until I reached the end having read it twice, and then I went back and reread it in one go. For such a short story, it is quite complex; it took me awhile to realise that instead of looking purely to the future, as many of the other stories in the anthology do, this one also marches slowly but surely into the past. It isn’t quite time-travel but it is such that reading the story and rereading it is definitely recommended.

REVIEW: “Digital Nation” by Emad El-Din Aysha

Review of Emad El-Din Aysha, “Digital Nation”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 77-94 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story was a really interesting discussion of the role that Utopias play in society, and the question of why Muslims don’t really have Utopian stories (apart from al-Farabi’s The Virtuous City but “he got his inspiration from Plato” p. 82). At the very end of the story (don’t worry, no spoilers), one character says to another, “They had a Utopia, of sorts, at the time of their Prophet, then it all fell apart afterwards” (p. 94). Not only that, but no one ever tried, after that — until a man, known only as “Hannibal”, got involved.

REVIEW: “The Key” by Anwar Hamed

Review of Anwar Hamed, Andrew Leber (trans.), “The Key”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 65-76 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Not all stories told in Palestine are stories of displaced Arabs…the Israeli settlers too have their stories to tell, and one of such story is Hamed’s. In his future, a novel solution to the Arab-Israeli tensions comes in the form of a gravitational wall: Invisible, but programmed to only allow those who have the right key embedded in their chips to allow them to enter and exit. Even though the wall is protected with unhackable encryption, it comes as no surprise to the reader that no wall is ever going to be a tenable solution in the long run.

REVIEW: “N” by Majd Kayyal

Review of Majd Kayyal, Thoraya El-Rayyes (trans.), “N”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 43-63 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story was a series of half-conversations, where we as the reader are only party to one side, needing to fill in the gaps in between. It’s another fairly critical view about Palestine’s future — even though the revolution has ended and an Agreement has been reached, it’s an Agreement that divided family and friends, wrought barriers rather than building bridges, and still, many years later, has long-felt consequences. I know the stories in this anthology are speculative in the sense that they speculate about possible future and options, but that doesn’t prevent individual stories, like this one, feeling much more like dim realism. But this story was sweet amidst its sadness, and full of love.