Writing stories in a second language is not something most of us ever try. Safaa Halahla’s piece about the Second Intifada could have been written with less trouble in Arabic, which is her first. She’s one of thirty or forty Palestinians I’ve been lucky enough to meet over the last few years who wanted to see what happened when they tried writing in English. The five posts that will appear on the LRB blog over the course of this week were composed at the 2013 Palestine Writing Workshop. They’re all first-person pieces. The workshop participants were also good on lit crit and op ed, but averse to writing about the visual arts: I suggest, often without success, that images have a raw rhetorical force that makes fools of us if it leaves us speechless. Food, memories recent and distant; other places and other identities: these are subjects participants find more congenial. The problems of life lived under military rule are always present, along with an ironic sense of complexity – about day-to-day life, long-term ambitions and short-term needs – in a world where straightforward stories are the exception.
The Palestine Writing Workshop receives support from the Palestine Festival of Literature and the British Council.