Exile is a forceful presence in Palestinian literature, a recurrent theme that takes fertile forms which undermine cliched interpretations. Outside the homeland whose name is Palestine exist many other lives lived by outsiders: the exiled, the displaced, the uprooted, the homeless. Whatever the differences in aims and directions, all those lives start from a common basis: escape and the ability to survive. Survival under all circumstances is the greater proposition that also ensures the survival and safety of homelands.
In this chapter of Gazan writer Abdalhadi Alijla’s novel, the setting has an emotional frame of reference derived from the dreams and longing for the old certainties of the Gaza that produced him as he tries to reconstruct that fragmented and fraught relationship in the relationship of the novel’s protagonist in his new transforming spaces: studio – cell – villa – Sweden. In a complex plot, he outlines two lives, here and there, and two voices lost in questions of belonging and fear of uprooting.
Suspended between a vanished past, of which his severed memory can only recall his drowning at sea, and an equally intangible present, all he can focus on is his anxiety about a letter that may threaten his existence in a country that may not grant citizenship to its guests.
Alijla presents a schizophrenic biography; the schizophrenia caused by the occupation, alienation, and migration to the world’s capital cities. Neither here nor there, it is the biography of all of us.