Raja Shehadeh Interview with the voice of Palestine

I was lucky enough to ask the award winning Palenstine writer and Human rights Lawyer  Raja Shehadeh ,about his current book and its main character his Ottoman uncle Najib ,also his views on the current situation in the wider Arabic world .He was the 2008 Orwell prize winner .

1.      What do you think your Uncle Najib would make of the current  situation in the Arabic world ?

Najib was a man of the people who believed in people’s power. What is now taking place around many of the Arab countries exemplifies this. He would have felt confirmed in his belief that people can win freedom if they work together against those exploiting and oppressing them.


2.      What would have been different if people like your uncle had been listened to more at the turn of the century pre-1948 ?

It is uncertain whether he could have rallied enough support to turn the tide. It is just as possible that those countries and movements behind the change were just too powerful to be stopped in their tracks by any degree of resistance from such prescient people like Najib.

3.      I’ve recently read the 1948 novel Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar and wondered if there was a Palestinian novel that gave the other side of the story written, set at the same time ?


What immediately comes to mind is Elias Khoury’s novel published a few years ago, Gate of the Sun.

4.      I got a real sense of the warmth of people around Lebanon and Palestine and wonder why this is not portrayed in western media as much?

Western media has by and large assisted in sustaining the negative stereotype of the Arab. But there is also the fact that it is only the shocking and horrific that makes it to the news bulletin and not the tranquil and warm which is manifest in abundance amongst Arab society as in many others.


5.      What are your feelings on the current wave of freedom/liberation sweeping the Arabic world ?

The most significant change that occurred is that it brought renewed hope and cured many of the young of the debilitating cynicism that can so often lead to horrible consequences when it infects the new generation.


6.      How do you think the current activities in the Arab world will  effect Palestine?

They will have a tremendous impact by shaking forever the status quo that has enabled the suffering of the Palestinians to continue with impunity with one disaster following another, always deemed justifiable and necessary to prevent worse evils. Many of the assumptions and fears that were used to hold together this shaky world of the Middle East have since been found to be exaggerated and often the creation of autocrats who propagated them to help them hold on to the reins of power.


7.      Your personal history has been tinged by sadness; how do you remain so positive and poetic?

I find writing to be therapeutic. I believe authors have a duty to help create new and better realities by first imagining them and whenever possible turn the “stuff of life” into poetry.


8.      Which Palestinian voices in literature should we be reading?

Suad Amiry, Murid Barghouti, Adania Shibli and Fadi Joudah.


9.      What are you currently working on?

A work of non-fiction based on my diaries that tries to make sense of the developments of the past two years.



Thanks to Raja and Jazz and the people at profile for this interview .I shall be review some other Rajas other books and another book from a Palenstine writer by Profile books.










March 2011


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