Friday, 18 June 2021

Under The Gaze Of Angels by Said Habib

Under The Gaze Of Angels by Said Habib
Published by Interlink Books on the 16th April 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Under the Gaze of Angels offers treasured views of family and neighborhood life, native to the Galilee, in the years leading up to and following the upheavals of 1948.

A collection of four stories, told with simplicity and warmth, they include three set during the time of British mandate rule: "Zuha and the Book Vendor," "The English Gramophone," and "Yildiz the Turkish Woman." These are followed by the book's title work, a remembrance that travels from childhood to elder years, pursued by loss. Imagined or recalled in exile, these vivid, evocative mementos quietly disarm the violence that surrounds them, restoring a stolen past to memory under the gaze of angels.

With the persecution of Palestinian people again in the news, it felt like a particularly apt time to read Said Habib's short story and memoir quartet, Under The Gaze Of Angels. This poignant work was written after decades in exile. The three stories are historical fiction, created with a strong sense of authenticity, which gently recount episodes in ordinary people's lives under British occupation - before the British government sold out the Palestinians to the then-new Israeli state. I could feel a very different Palestine in the 1930s and Habib brings his characters vividly to life showing how myriad peoples coexisted and the natural beauty of the land they inhabited. There's a wonderful quiet dignity to the stories and I loved their gentle meandering style.

Where the tone grows more ominous is in the final piece of the quartet, Habib's memoir Under The Gaze Of Angels, where he reminisces about his childhood and teenage years in Nazareth before his ultimate emigration to Canada. While the narrative style remains similar, I could feel the undercurrent of fear growing stronger within Habib's family as Israeli restrictions and military rule become widespread. Bombings and shootings become sadly commonplace events while the rest of the world looks away or distorts the truth of what is happening (and is still predominantly looking away even now). Habib's book is an upsetting read, yet also a valuable insight into the tragedy of Palestine over several generations. 

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Said Habib / Short stories / Books from Palestine

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