Feelings. I’m failing to access my feelings since the latest increase in cruelties against people in Palestine/Israel started. My soul has been paralyzed with despair. Or emptiness. Words have vanished; they’ve abandoned me. I can no longer speak to anyone; I haven’t been answering the phone, nor have I gone out of my apartment apart from doing stuff related to taking care of my child and working. I cannot read news or opinion pieces to the end. I start reading, perhaps for a few seconds, then my eyes drift away. I stop for a couple of days, wondering how people can articulate and find words when I have none. I feel limited and less good than anyone else speaking or writing. All those who can say and express things so clearly and so articulately. I still go back and try to read, moving between news outlets in Arabic, English, Hebrew, and then again, I get amazed by everyone’s linguistic mastery and my own failure, and stop reading.

The only news piece I do manage to finish to the end is one published by the Israeli news outlet Ynet, dating back to October 4th, 2023. It reports on a snake that tried to swallow a hedgehog whole. The article describes how the snake’s desperation for food to survive leads to its mistake of trying to eat the hedgehog. The hedgehog, however, pushes out its needles in its attempt to fight back and tries to escape, but in doing so, gets stuck in the mouth of the snake. The snake dies, and the hedgehog dies.

I start to wonder if this is an animal prophecy or a warning to us humans. I then wonder, whose roles were the snake and the hedgehog performing? The Israelis and the Palestinians? The privileged and the underprivileged? Our realities and our hopes? Life and death? Language and me? I burden the dead snake and the dead hedgehog over and over again with my own despair and emptiness.

Then, suddenly, I’m informed about an article in taz, voicing dismay at my last novel, Tafsil Thanawi [Minor Detail], receiving the Litprom award in a ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The article felt to me like a cynical distraction from the real pain, the pain of others, which we cannot experience ourselves or access in the first place. Beyond that, I didn’t feel much; emptiness was stronger, more vicious; it continued to overpower me.

A couple of days later, I’m informed about their decision to cancel the ceremony as well as my events, all presented to me in a rather brief email. This would still fail to provoke any feelings. I only start thinking of how, based on untruths, one can shift things and affect them in reality with such speed and ease; untruths, or invented facts that were created by members of the press and cultural institutions in Germany. As someone whose lifeline requires leaving the real to loiter in the imaginary, the imaginative is not a practice I would denounce, that is, to rely on «untruths.» I just wish it would be recognized as fiction rather than communicated as truth and facts.

Some of these untruths are expressed by the taz journalist to claim that my novel propagates violence against Israelis and that I am «committed BDS activist»; then by Litprom, who initially stated that the decision to cancel the event was made jointly with me. The «untruths,» or fictions of literature, never manage to have such effects in the real world, perhaps for the better.

Literature’s relevance is not to incite change but intimacy and reflection; to bring others back to ourselves, perhaps a field where we can consider how we relate to ourselves and to others, from living to pain; and to guide us towards imagining how to live better. Or, to quote my friend the writer Rafael Cardoso’s phrase from a Brazilian painter: «to make the unknown better.»

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