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What’s Next for Gaza’s Writers?

by | Oct 19, 2023 | News

Comma Press, the independent not-for-profit publisher based in Manchester, England, is concerned about the safety of its writers and translators based in Gaza.

In a statement, the publisher said it was “extremely concerned about the safety of several of its writers and translators trapped in Gaza today, some living there, some visiting family”.

The publisher added: “Comma has yet to hear from many writers and translators from the Strip that it has worked with over the years. These include Nayrouz Qarmout, the best-selling author at the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival (author of The Sea Cloak), whose family (themselves relocated refugees from the Yarmouk refugee camp) live in the Karama district, which saw some of the most devastating bombing earlier in the week.”

Comma CEO Ra Page said: “We’re heartbroken and devastated for those trapped there. Obviously, it’s a horrific situation, with tragedies on both sides. Our hearts go out to the bereaved on both sides, and we obviously condemn all acts of violence.”  He told the Bookseller: “They’ve been told by the Israel Defence Force to leave but there is obviously nowhere to go to. The Raffah border with Egypt was bombed heavily in the first few days of the conflict, so even the lucky few with money and the right documentation to leave can’t now go anywhere. There are no air-raid shelters and the sea is patrolled by gunships. Where are they supposed to go?”

Comma Press publishes The Book of Gaza which says: ‘Under the Israeli occupation of the ’70s and ’80s, writers in Gaza had to go to considerable lengths to ever have a chance of seeing their work in print. Manuscripts were written out longhand, invariably under pseudonyms, and smuggled out of the Strip to Jerusalem, Cairo or Beirut, where they then had to be typed up. Consequently, fiction grew shorter, novels became novellas, and short stories flourished as the city’s form of choice. Indeed, to Palestinians elsewhere, Gaza became known as ‘the exporter of oranges and short stories’.

‘This anthology brings together some of the pioneers of the Gazan short story from that era, as well as younger exponents of the form, with ten stories that offer glimpses of life in the Strip that go beyond the global media headlines; stories of anxiety, oppression, and violence, but also of resilience and hope, of what it means to be a Palestinian, and how that identity is continually being reforged; stories of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what many have called ‘the largest prison in the world’.’

 

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