Ursula Lindsey

  • politics June 13, 2014

    A Palfest Diary, Part II

    June 3

    On the fourth day of the Palestinian Festival of Literature, we cross the Green Line, the Israeli border established after the 1948 war, and enter Haifa, which slopes down to the sea. The city is the object of particular yearning in the land-locked Palestinian imagination. Most of its Palestinian population fled when the fighting broke out, and was not allowed to return. In Ghassan Kanafani’s classic novella, Return to Haifa, a Palestinian couple caught up in a panicked exodus is forced to escape by boat and leave their newborn child behind. They return twenty years later to find that

  • politics June 09, 2014

    A Palfest Diary

    May 31

    We head from Amman, Jordan, to the Allenby Bridge terminal, the only land crossing into the West Bank open to Palestinians. We are advised not to utter the word palestine to Israeli customs officials, lest they take umbrage and deny us entrance, as they have the power to do. And so the Palestine Festival of Literature, or Palfest, as it’s called, enters the West Bank discreetly, afraid of being turned away.

    We wait at the terminal for five hours, until everyone else has passed through and the cleaning crews have started their sweeps. But we are armed with patience, and the terminal

  • culture May 19, 2014

    Land of No Rain by Amjad Nasser

    Twenty years ago, Adham Jaber was a poet and revolutionary who participated in an assassination attempt on a general and was forced to flee. Now he has lost the youthful convictions that pushed him into militancy and exile in the first place—or rather, those convictions have been tempered by failure and age. Land of No Rain, the first novel by Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser, is a work that could have been sentimental but isn’t.

    In Land of No Rain, the first novel by the Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser, an exiled middle-aged Arab writer and editor (not unlike Nasser, who lives in London and works as an editor at a pan-Arab newspaper) finally returns to his homeland. Twenty years ago, Adham Jaber was a poet and revolutionary who participated in an assassination attempt on one of the line of “ginger-haired” generals ruling his country (the fictional Hamiya) and was forced, with other members of his leftist organization, to flee. When the book opens he is still living in London, “a grey-skied Babel crowned with the gold of

  • politics February 12, 2014

    Around the Cairo International Book Fair

    I haven’t attended the Cairo International Book Fair in years. My guide during my return to the fair this January was a staggeringly cultured middle-aged Egyptian friend. He’s an autodidact who remembers first haunting the bookstalls and surreptitiously skimming pages when he was a penniless ten-year old, and the fair (and Cairo), was the uncontested epicenter of Arabic literature. Back then, the event was held in the upper-class island district of Zamalek; today it occupies fair grounds in Nasr City, a suburb built in the 1960 to provide cheap housing for army officers. It is also the neighborhood