Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights Under Siege by Amira Hass (tr. Maxine Nunn)

drinking the sea at gaza book on blue blanket

a nutshell: an Israeli reporter reflects on what she saw and heard while living in Gaza, from moments of abject grief to resilient humour

a line: at one point Hass describes leaving her friends’ house in Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, where her friends had no running water during the day and only a limited supply of salty water at other times; she reaches the Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim and drinks from a restroom tap – “Sweet and refreshing, the free-flowing water still had an aftertaste, the bitter flavor – I couldn’t help but imagine – of apartheid”

an image: Hass describes mangled heaps of rubble (homes demolished as a ‘deterrent’) as bearing witness to the ravaged lives of Gaza’s people like the rings of a tree trunk marking the passage of time

a thought: the chapter about the agony of obtaining exit permits for families suffering with ill-health is harrowing to read, particularly the sections on injured/unwell children in need of treatment

a fact: Hass’s desire to live in Gaza stemmed from the dread of being a bystander – a legacy of her mother’s memory of some German women looking with indifferent curiosity as she was herded from a cattle car to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1944; to Hass, Gaza embodies the central contradiction of the State of Israel, that is, democracy for some, dispossession for others

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Soweto Stories by Miriam Tlali

a nutshell: this 1989 short story collection casts a unique light on Sowetans – mostly women – persevering within a cruel landscape of apartheid and patriarchy

a line“It was a strong, stoic and steadfast face which, to both her children, never seemed to yield to the vicissitudes of life and the inevitable hazards of ageing.”

an image: in one of the perennially congested train carriages into which black South Africans were forced, a woman clenches as a man probes her thighs – her screams unheard in the noisy, suffocating compartment; on arrival she is “too hurt, too shamefully abused, to speak” (gender-based violence runs throughout Tlali’s fiction)

a thought: at first I found the style challenging – e.g. Tlali often dips into other languages (which I worked out were Sesotho and Afrikaans, maybe among others) not necessarily with translation, and many English words are punctuated ‘like this’ – but after a while I came to appreciate how she kept her world alive in this distinct way

a fact: the first black South African woman to publish a novel (Muriel at Metropolitan / Between Two Worlds, 1975), most of Tlali’s writing was originally banned by the South African apartheid regime and she endured years of harassment by police for her work

 

want to read Soweto Stories? visit here