Adania Shibli: When the Present is Haunted by the Past

A novel in two parts, Adania Shibli’s Minor Detail is superbly translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette. The narrative begins in 1949 from the perspective of an Israeli soldier, operating with his platoon at the desert border with Egypt.

In emotionless language full of detail, the soldier explains how the patrol unit encounters a group of Bedouin nomads and shoots them dead. The only survivor, a teenage woman, is gang raped and then murdered. The novel then moves to the perspective of a woman in present-day Ramallah who reads about these events of 1949 and decides to try to discover what happened to this woman.

This, the author’s third novel, is undoubtedly going to lead to the international recognition Shibli deserves, especially because of a conclusion that JM Coetzee has described as ‘heart-stopping.’ In this conversation with Pakistani novelist Fatima Bhutto, Shibli explains the background to her extraordinary book.

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