The crisis in Israel/Palestine has long been the world’s most visible military conflict. Yet the region’s cultural and intellectual life remains all but unknown to most foreign observers, which means that literary texts that make it into circulation abroad tend to be received as historical documents rather than aesthetic artefacts. Rhetorics of Belonging examines the diverse ways in which Palestinian and Israeli world writers have responded to the expectation that they will ‘narrate’ the nation, invigorating critical debates about the political and artistic value of national narration as a reading and writing practice. It considers writers whose work is rarely discussed together, offering new readings of the work of Edward Said, Amos Oz, Mourid Barghouti, Orly Castel-Bloom, Sahar Khalifeh, and Anton Shammas. This book helps to restore the category of the nation to contemporary literary criticism by attending to a context where the idea of the nation is so central a part of everyday experience that writers cannot not address it, and readers cannot help but read for it. It also points a way toward a relational literary history of Israel/Palestine, one that would situate Palestinian and Israeli writing in the context of a history of antagonistic interaction. The book’s findings are relevant not only for scholars working in postcolonial studies and Israel/Palestine studies, but for anyone interested in the difficult and unpredictable intersections of literature and politics. An Open Access edition of this work is available on the OAPEN Library.
Advances key debates about national narration and national allegory in postcolonial literary studies through comparative readings of Palestinian and Israeli texts Provides a critical introduction to important works of Palestinian and Israeli ‘world’ literature Offers new readings of works by Edward Said, Amos Oz, Mourid Barghouti, Orly Castel-Bloom, Sahar Khalifeh, and Anton Shammas Brings together postcolonial literary studies and Israel/Palestine studies, making a decisive contribution in each field.
A fascinating, original, sophisticated yet highly readable study of Israeli and Palestinian literature.
Clearly, Rhetorics of Belonging marks an important intervention in postcolonial studies. Its ambitious scope and the fact that it is one of the first accounts of Israel/Palestine in the field means that for others interested in the region, it will no doubt pose as many questions as it provides answers – whether questions concerned with generic differences, literature outside of Bernard’s timeframe, or the applicability of her ideas to other forms of cultural production from the region. One hopes that in time, these questions – and many others – will be answered.
Sophia Brown, The University of Kent, Postcolonial Studies Association