minor detail


Publishing House: Dar Al Adab

Publication Year: 2017

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 127

The novel “Minor Detail” by Palestinian author Adania Shibli focuses on the issue of justice in the Palestinian cause. The English translation of the novel made it to the longlist for International Booker Prize in London in 2021.

The novel “Minor Detail” also won the “LiBeraturpreis” from the German Literary Association in 2023 for its German edition. However, the 2023 Frankfurt Book Fair canceled the ceremony honoring Adania Shibli, who was scheduled to receive the “LiBeraturpreis”. This decision followed the “Al-Aqsa Flood” incident and accusations of anti-Semitism against her literary work, leading many Arab voices and institutions to announce their boycott of the fair in protest of its stance.

The novel “Minor Detail” was released in a new edition in 2023 through a collaboration between Dar Al-Adab in Beirut and Tanmia Bookstore in Cairo.

In her novel “Minor Detail,” Palestinian author Adania Shibli emphasizes that no crime is ever truly forgotten, even if its evidence is buried deep in the desert. The crime in question involves a defenseless Bedouin Palestinian girl who falls victim to a battalion of Israeli occupation soldiers, who make her disappear in an instant.

Across 127 pages, the author divides the novel into two sections. The first section is set in August 1949, with the oppressive heat permeating the narrative. An Israeli military unit is on a mission to sweep the southwestern part of the Negev Desert, clearing it of “Arab remnants” after military intelligence reports the presence of infiltrators.

Amid the routine military operations, a young Bedouin girl is captured. She emits only muffled sobs and trembles incessantly, details the novel meticulously describes, depicting her as resembling a “beetle curled up in her black clothes.” The soldiers then violate her honor and end her life with a gunshot as she attempts to escape.

The persistent sound of a dog, which stayed with the Bedouin girl from the moment she fell into the soldiers’ hands, echoes despairingly and loudly. This intense presence of the dog and its barking is not incidental; the author uses it as a narrative thread to transition to a time a quarter-century after the incident. The barking of dogs multiplies, paralleling the rising intensity of despair in the novel. Despite their loud barks, no one heeds them as a clue to the crimes of the occupation, both buried and visible.

In the novel’s other timeline, the protagonist becomes obsessed with uncovering the details of the Bedouin girl’s murder and rape by the occupation forces 25 years earlier. She reads about it in a passing article by an Israeli journalist, driven by a seemingly “minor” detail: the date of the incident is the same as her own birthday

The author contemplates the essence of minor details as a means to uncover the truth. Her personal nature inclines towards observing small details, creating a narrative in “Minor Detail” that emphasizes the value of revisiting the margins to understand the main text, particularly the crimes of the occupation.

“Minor Detail” illuminates many paradoxes regarding the Israeli occupation’s monopoly on historical narratives. The documentation, distorted and stored in their military museums, becomes a focal point. The protagonist’s quest to uncover the circumstances of a crime committed a quarter-century earlier becomes an act of resistance and a defense of the occupied homeland.

Read More About Adania Shibli

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