Passage to the Plaza
In Bab Al-Saha, a quarter of Nablus, Palestine, sits a house of ill-repute. In it lives Nuzha, a young woman ostracized from and shamed by her community. When the Intifada breaks out, Nuzha’s abode unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary for those in the quarter: Hussam, an injured resistance fighter; Samar, a university researcher exploring the impact of the Intifada on women’s lives; and Sitt Zakia, the pious midwife.
In the furnace of conflict at the heart of the 1987 Intifada, notions of freedom, love, respectability, nationhood, the rights of women and Palestinian identity—both among the reluctant residents of the house and the inhabitants of the quarter at large—will be melted and re-forged. Vividly recounted through the eyes of its female protagonists, Passage to the Plaza is a ground-breaking story that shatters the myth of a uniform gendered experience of conflict.
‘Passage to the Plaza . . . appeared in 1990, emerging from Khalifeh’s immediate reactions to the Intifada. Drawn with rapid strokes, the novel’s broader action is clear enough—The Israelis sweep into the quarter, erecting blockages and walls which the inhabitants knock down. The walls go higher and thicker, the resistance to them intensifies. Palestinians and Israelis die and are injured. Although Khalifeh isn’t invested in either extended action scenes or visual depth, there is plenty of tension. The young Palestinian men, some striking back, some hiding in the mountains, are regarded as heroes. But in Khalifeh’s work, the striving for women’s emancipation from patriarchal domination runs in parallel with the desire for Palestinian freedom. . . . In the fight for freedom, Khalifeh has insisted in all six of her novels that liberation must comprise more than just wresting free of the Israelis.’ —Ron Slate, On the Seawall. Read the full review here.
‘No Palestinian writer has subjected Palestinian society to as radical a political and social critique as Khalifeh has done since she began writing in the early 1970s.’ —Bashir Abu-Manneh, author of The Palestinian Novel: From 1948 to the Present
‘Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh — winner of the Muhammad Zafzaf Prize — has seen five of her novels translated to English, but not her classic Bab al-Saha, which appears on both Banipal’s “Best 100 Novels” list and the Arab Writers Union’s “Best 105” of the 20th century.’ —ArabLit Quarterly
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