Home
About Limala
Contact Us
Site Map
Home > New Books >Edit

How do you spell that? katami fitness Director Zack Snyder made the surprise announcement during the Warner Bros. panel at Comic Con that both he and his Superman, actor Henry Cavill,

by Mischa Hiller. Telegram, 203 pages, 11 pounds sterling / $15.95 U.S.

Shake Off
by Mischa Hiller. Telegram, 277 pages, 8 pounds sterling

Given the walls, literal and metaphorical, that have risen up between Israelis and Palestinians, especially during the last two decades, literature is one of the few channels through which we can get a sense of what life is like on the other side of the conflict. The canon of Palestinian fiction is relatively small, especially in terms of works translated into English. Now, however, we can add to its list of practitioners debut novelist Mischa Hiller, of Palestinian and British parentage, who was raised in London, Beirut and the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam.
Given Hiller‘s hyphenated roots, it should not be surprising that the issue of identity, and the loyalties that follow from it, are leitmotifs of both his works: one about a teenager who must decide where his cardinal duty lies; the other about a young man living under a false identity who longs to regain his sense of self. And both protagonists, as it happens, are second-generation diaspora Palestinians cursed by the conflict over a land they‘ve never seen.

‘A citizen of the world‘
Eighteen-year-old Ivan, the narrator of "Sabra Zoo" (the first of Hiller‘s two novels, published last year ), grew up in Denmark and Beirut as the son of a Danish mother and Palestinian father of whom we learn little beyond the fact that he is highly respected by his PLO comrades. When asked by a European woman whether he considers himself Danish or Arab, the teen declaims, "I am a citizen of the world," adding for our benefit: "I thought this sounded better than ‘I don‘t know‘ or ‘It depends on who I‘m with‘ or ‘Who gives a shit anyway?‘"
We meet Ivan in Beirut just after his parents have left the city in the late-August 1982 exodus of PLO leaders and fighters, which was Israel‘s price for halting its aerial and artillery assaults on West Beirut and the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila to its south. Ivan could have gone with them, but he was persuaded by a PLO elder to stay in the city because he could be useful to the cause. "At the time it had seemed like a good idea, an opportunity to prove that I could do something worthwhile and be self-reliant for the first time," he recalls. "My mother hadn‘t been so keen on my staying but the truth was I saw it as a way of escaping my parents ..."

Thus, while his Lebanese former classmates begin their university studies, Ivan works as an interpreter for a number of foreign medical volunteers - physicians and physical therapists from India, Norway and Scotland - in Sabra‘s hospital.
Occasionally he helps out an American television journalist. And protected (or so he hopes ) by his Danish passport, he also serves as a courier for the remnant of the PLO cadre operating underground. Free of parental supervision, he spends his nights in the company of the volunteers and a few of their male Palestinian friends, drinking, getting stoned and being initiated into sex. All in all, the perfect setup for a bildungsroman against an intriguing historical backdrop.
From Ivan‘s perspective, the war has reached its denouement. Israeli troops still have the city surrounded. But with the PLO evicted, the bombing and shelling have stopped, and Ivan‘s life - except for an occasional spike in adrenalin related to his clandestine duties - has settled into a quotidian round of work and play. Even the war injuries he confronts in the Sabra hospital don‘t seem to rattle him. Unlike our narrator, however, we know that the worst - a paroxysm of carnage committed by the Christian Phalange militia in Sabra and Chatila - is yet to come. Indeed, Hiller‘s publisher describes the novel as the flip (that is, Palestinian ) side of Ari Folman‘s "Waltz with Bashir." And though "Sabra Zoo" lacks that filmÃÂÃÃÃÂÂÂ