A Mask, the Color of the Sky

A-Mask,-the-Colour-of-the-Sky-Cover

Publishing House: Dar Al Adab

Publication Year: 2023

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 240

The novel “A Mask, the Color of the Sky” is a Palestinian novel published by Dar Al-Adab, a Lebanese publishing house, in 2023. It spans 240 pages and is authored by the Palestinian writer Basim Khandaqji.

The novel won the International Prize For Arabic Fiction, known as the “Arabic Booker Prize,” in its seventeenth edition on April 28, 2024. The judging panel selected the winning novel from among 133 novels nominated for the award in this cycle, considering it the best novel published between July 2022 and June 2023. The publisher of the novel, Rana Idriss, of Dar Al-Adab, accepted the award on behalf of the author, Basim Khandaqji.

The novel “A Mask, the Color of the Sky” revolves around “Noor”, an archaeologist residing in a camp in Ramallah. One day, he finds a blue identity card in the pocket of an old coat, belonging to its Israeli owner, “Or”. Noor then wears the mask of the occupier in an attempt to understand the mindset of Zionism.

In “Noor’s” transformation into “Or” and his joining of an excavation mission in one of the settlements, buried Palestine emerges beneath the soil with all its history. In the distance between “Noor” and “Or”, between the blue Israeli identity and the Palestinian permit, and between the marginalized original narrative and the prevailing divergent narrative, will Noor succeed in shedding the mask and eliminating Or, perhaps to reach the light?

The mask symbolizes the “blue identity” that “Noor”, an archaeologist residing in a camp in Ramallah, finds in the pocket of an old coat belonging to an Israeli. “Noor” wears this mask, thus beginning the narrative journey of the novel. A multi-layered narrative distinguishes it with its character development, experimentation, and the retrieval of history and the memory of places.

The protagonist of the novel “A Mask, the Color of the Sky” seeks to write a historical novel about “Mary Magdalene”. In order to conduct his historical research for the novel, he assumes the identity of an Israeli citizen, adopting the European features that facilitate his access, along with his mastery of Hebrew, which allows him to penetrate the Zionist interior and join an excavation mission in one of the archaeological sites. However, through following the dialogues between “Noor” and his assumed character, Or, we see the true story, which is the crisis of identity experienced by “Noor”. He refuses to accept his status as a refugee living in a camp on his homeland’s soil, while at the same time, he cannot accept the artificial life granted to him by his forged identity amid the enemies of his homeland who usurped their land and falsified their history.

The novel suggests that Noor Mahdi Al-Shahidi, the Palestinian youth with Ashkenazi features who was born in one of the refugee camps, did not mention its name “because all the camps are the same,” which indicates what is brewing within the character regarding identity, especially since the author writes from behind bars.

The novel “A Mask, the Color of the Sky” presents characters such as “Murad”, the Palestinian prisoner, Sheikh “Mursi Al-Gharnati”, who serves as a guiding compass for “Noor”, and “Samaa Ismail”, and “Ayala” with all her senses as a Sephardic Jewish woman. The work can be divided into three parts: the protagonist “Noor’s” search about “Mary Magdalene”, the lives of the two characters and their identities – “Noor” and “Or”, and it is a work that moves from Palestinian circles to within the circles of the occupying enemy, revealing the two identities.

Read More About Basim Khandaqji

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