Gaza Blues Review

Gaza Blues, the collection of short fiction by Samir Al-Youssef and Etgar Keret that I’ve mentioned before, gets the Daily Star treatment.

“The idea for the book came up in the beginning of 2002,” explains Keret, also speaking via e-mail. “There wasn’t a day without casualties both on the Palestinian and the Israeli side and things seemed even more hopeless than they usually are in our region. Samir called me and, like me, he was very depressed. He said that we [could] do something. I said to him jokingly that there is very little the two of us are able to do except write stories … A day later Samir called back with the idea for ‘Gaza Blues.'”

Keret insists that the point of the book is not to make a difference in grand terms. “Gaza Blues” is not an achingly idealistic attempt to broker an Arab-Israeli peace through literature. Rather, it carves out intimate space where as yet unexplored dimensions of the conflict may be probed. It resists falling prey to identity politics, and as such it appeals to anyone who might feel compelled to take a deep and weary breath before answering such questions as “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” Moreover, “Gaza Blues” is marked throughout by dark humor, touches of surrealism, and hip urban language.

“Our collaboration is meant to refer to a different area in the Palestine/Israel issue,” says Youssef. “And different means that which is deliberately overlooked and marginalized such as, in my case, the reality of the fragmentary nature of Palestinian society. There isn’t only one Palestinian society but many and different, and that’s why the Palestine/Israel issue is not limited to a certain geography or history.”

And still no U.S. publisher. What a shame.