Literary Gaza gasps for breath

As the destruction and death persists in Gaza, we should be thankful that creativity has not yet been suffocated.  Incredibly, authors continue to write through the bombardment.

According to an email from Ra Page, director of Manchester-based Comma Press, which recently published a collection of short stories from writers in Gaza, “all of the Book of Gaza contributors are writing away like crazy, whilst they have power.” (Eighty percent of households in Gaza currently have only up to four hours of power per day as Israel has badly damaged the Strip’s electricity infrastructure.)

One of those writers is Nayrouz Qarmout, who has just published a piece of fiction on the English PEN World Atlas, which publishes weekly literary dispatches from around the world.

Umm Ahmed looks at her son, Ahmed, and her daughters, Jenin and Jaffa. They’re sleeping deeply, after a month of the long days of war. She hasn’t closed the windows all night, for fear of explosions and shattering glass. They are sleeping on mattresses which she has dragged into the middle of the house, abandoning their rooms and beds to avoid some of the danger. But danger is everywhere, no matter where they go.

Another Book of Gaza author is Atef Abu Saif.  He’s written a diary for the Guardian, describing his ‘life under seige’.  Meanwhile, Mohammed Omer likens the bombardment to a symphony of death:

At just 3 months old, my son Omar cries, swaddled in his crib. It’s dark. The electricity and water are out. My wife frantically tries to comfort him, shield him and assure him as tears stream down her face. This night Omar’s lullaby is Israel’s rendition of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, with F-16s forming the ground-pounding percussion, Hellfire missiles leading the winds and drones representing the string section. All around us crashing bombs from Israeli gunships and ground-based mortars complete the symphony, their sound as distinct as the infamous Wagner tubas. But unlike a performance, this opera of death lasts days. Audience applause is replaced with the terrified cries of babies and children shrouded in smoke.

In his article ‘Suffocating indoors under the rain of Israel’s bombs‘ Ayah Bashir tries several metaphors to describe the sense of living underneath so much ordinance.

I look at the drones and think of what an airplane represents in any other place. There, they are a means of transport that facilitate people’s lives. Here, in Gaza, they are a constant source of danger as they may kill you if they identify you as a threat, so much easier and quicker than you could ever imagine.

One cannot help but think of the ‘doodlebugs’ that indiscriminately attacked Londoners during the blitz.  A sense that one’s destiny has been completely ripped from one’s control, a fate determined by the vagaries of a machine that has no distinction between civilian and combatant programmed into its circuitry.

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