A rift in time ( travels with my Ottoman uncle) by Raja Shehadeh

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestine writer ,lawyer and human rights activist ,he studied in London ,his father was also a lawyer .He was one of the first people to accept the need for a two state solution to the Arab /Israeli conflict he also found the Al -Haq human rights organization  which monitors human rights in Palestine .he has published a number of other books in 2008 he won the Orwell prize  for his book Palestine walks .

A rift in time starting point is Raja researching his family background and coming across his uncle Najib ,which he didn’t know a lot about but an interesting and unique man appear from the mist of time .A character that Raja decides to follow almost a hundred year later .Najib was a writer,journalist and  romantic guy ,who was  very critical of certain decisions that were taking place in the Ottoman empire around the time of the first world war ,mainly their decision to join that war but also a worry about the growth in the region around what would be modern Israeli .This lead to Najib facing the death sentence and going on the run around what is now Lebanon ,Jordan ,Palestine and Israeli .A lot of the small villages that his uncle visited were wiped out in the 1948 war  .so we travel meet the locals and Raja does a wonderfully poetic job in showing Najib experiences and his own along the same route .He builds up the tension as Najib runs out of places to hide ,but to find out if he gets caught and what Raja discovers I suggest you read the book .

In planning the route of his escape ,Najib had not been hampered by the political borders that many Palenstines are not allowed to cross today .Under the Ottomans on the eve of the first world war there is no administrative unit called Palenstine.Hafia ,acre ,Safad and Tiberias were part of the Beirut sanjaq (an administrative subdivision of a Vilayet or province) .

Raja beginning his Research into his uncle Najib’s  escape from death sentence .

I enjoyed the evenness of Raja writing it is so easy given the situations in the area to get bog down in facts figures and most of all the politics of the region ,these are touched on but don’t drive the story ,which is heartbreaking at times ,touching at others the loss villages and a colourful past due to the wiping out of so many villages in the late 20th century .

here is a Guardian interview with Raja

Raja is currently in the UK you can catch him here –

Friday 4 March 2011 – 6.30-8pm, FREE http://www.mosaicrooms.org/raja-shehadeh/

Raja Shehadeh:A Rift in Time-Travels with My Ottoman Uncle
Raja will be in conversation with British-Palestinian filmmaker Omar Al-Qattan.
Places are strictly limited, please RSVP 020 7370 9990, info@mosaicrooms.org
A.M. Qattan Foundation, The Mosaic Rooms, Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0SW, UK

Saturday 5 March – 10:00

BBC Radio 4 Excess Baggage – Raja Shehadeh talking to Chris Wilson


Sunday 6 March – 17:00 Jewish Book Week


A Rift in Time – Raja Shehadeh interviewed by Jo Glanville

Tickets £10. To book in advance go online http://www.jewishbookweek.com/2011/a-rift-in-time.php Or call 0844 847 2274

Jewish Book Week, Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, London WC1 0DG

Monday 7 March – 18:00

Glasgow Aye, Write! Festival


Venue: Mitchell Library, Glasgow G3 7DN
Tel 0141 287 2999
Cost: £8/£6

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 17:10:41

    This sounds fascinating & the comparison between travel then & now shows how fluid the idea of borders are.


  2. Tom C
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 18:48:25

    A complicated political situation which never really gets resolve does it. It sounds like a good read, so thanks for the review


  3. Kelly
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 21:18:01

    This looks really interesting! Thanks for posting the review. Adding this to my reading list 🙂


  4. Bina
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 22:05:54

    I love how you introduce me to books I haven’t heard of. This one sounds fascinating!


  5. Gavin
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 15:06:28

    This one sounds fascinating, I’m hoping my library has it. Thanks for the review.


  6. Teresa (Lovely Treez Reads)
    Mar 17, 2011 @ 12:52:00

    I’ve just read this, Stu and found it fascinating. I did have to google maps and potted histories of the conflict in order to get the most from it but I’ve certainly been educated! Having spent my life in the midst of sectarianism, I’ve avoided books like this but perhaps the time has come for me to widen my horizons a little. I did find the book a bit incoherent in places where it jumped through time and places but it certainly is an important book as it gives another side to the story.


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March 2011


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