February 24, Reading Palestine: Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
February 24, Saturday (VIRTUAL)
1pm New York | 6pm London | 8pm Ramallah
We continue to engage with the fight for Palestinian freedom by returning to the words of Palestinian writers themselves. Nowhere can we find more powerful expressions of resistance and the will to endure. Sahar Khalifeh (b. 1941) is one of the most important and prolific writers of our time. Wild Thorns is considered one of the first novels to explore daily life under the violent Israeli occupation. It has been translated into English by Trevor Le Gassick and Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock Fernea.
The novel is available pretty widely but Saqi Books released a new edition of the English translation with introduction by novelist Mohammed Hanif in August 2023. You can buy it here.
You can also read Mohammed Hanif's introduction to the novel's re-release on ArabLit here.
About the novel
Published in 1976 as Al-Subar, Wild Thorns is the third novel by Sahar Khalifeh. A young Palestinian named Usama returns from working in the Gulf to support the resistance movement. His mission is to blow up buses transporting Palestinian workers into Israel. Shocked to discover that many of his fellow citizens have adjusted to life under military rule, Usama exchanges harsh words with his friends and family. Despite uncertainty, he sets out to accomplish his mission but with disastrous consequences. Wild Thorns features unsentimental portrayals of everyday life, its deep sincerity, uncompromising honesty and rich emotional core plead elegantly for the cause of survival in the face of oppression.
About the author
Sahar Khalifeh is the author of 11 novels and the winner of many international prizes, including the 2006 Naguib Mahfouz literature medal. She is easily one of the most important living writers today. Khalifeh was born in Nablus in 1941. She entered into a traditional arranged marriage at eighteen, and after thirteen years left her husband and began writing. After the 1967 defeat of Jordan and subsequent occupation of the West Bank, Khalifeh began writing again. She began writing “resistance poetry” but broke away from this genre to focus on stories exploring the lives and worlds of women. Her first novel, After the Defeat, followed the interactions of families in a Nablus apartment building after the war. The only manuscript of this novel was confiscated by Israeli authorities and never published. Khalifeh continued writing and her next novel, We Are Not Your Slaves Any Longer, was published in 1974, and was followed by her best-known third novel in 1976. Wild Thorns that explored class nuances under Israeli occupation. She published The Sunflower in 1980 as a sequel to Wild Thorns to focus on female narratives that were largely absent from the original story. She taught at the University of Iowa and at Palestine’s Bir Zeit University, and founded the Women's Affairs Centres in Nablus, Gaza City and Amman.
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