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Minor Detail
Cover of Minor Detail
Minor Detail
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A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people

Shortlisted for the National Book Award

Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba—the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people—and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand.

Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.

A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people

Shortlisted for the National Book Award

Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba—the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people—and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand.

Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Adania Shibli was born in Palestine in 1974, holds a Ph.D. from the University of East London, and has published three novels in Arabic. She splits her time between Berlin and Jerusalem.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 18, 2020
    Shibli’s startling, cinematic novel (after Touch) centers on crimes against Palestinians in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War and in the present. In August 1949, a group of Israeli soldiers enters the Negev, a desert region in southern Israel, led by an unnamed maniacal officer who’s secretly suffering from a venomous bug bite. The soldiers ambush and kill a group of unarmed Bedouins, then return to their camp with the sole survivor, a young Arab woman whose tragic fate is tied to the officer’s rapidly deteriorating state. In the 2000s, a Palestinian woman in the West Bank reads an article about these events and becomes obsessed with learning more after realizing they occurred 25 years to the day before she was born. Borrowing a colleague’s ID card to leave the West Bank and enter Israel, despite her fear of borders, which “shake and destabilize me to the point that I can no longer fathom what is permissible and what is not,” she heads to the site of the crime. Shibli’s masterly, acidic work of subtle symbolism and plot symmetry gives no access to the thoughts of the Israeli soldiers or their victim, making the Palestinian woman’s subsequent first-person narration all the more arresting. This is a remarkable exercise in dramatizing a desire for justice.

  • Katie da Cunha Lewin;Los Angeles Review of Books An intense and penetrating work about the profound impact of living with violence—Shibli's work is powerful and this translation by Elisabeth Jaquette is rendered with exquisite clarity and quiet control.
  • The Guardian The terror Shibli evokes intensifies slowly, smouldering, until it is shining off the page...The book is, at every turn, dangerously and devastatingly good.
  • Rick Simonson;Elliott Bay Book Company In Adania Shibli's subversively quiet, compelling Minor Detail, threads of connection are embodied in a young woman's quest to find almost erased history. Written in spare, careful language (praise also to translator Elisabeth Jaquette), Shibli helps reclaim what would be obliterated by forces actively at work yet today, doing so with a narrative masterfully carrying both surprise and inevitability within. This book has devastation and loss to a shattering, wrenching degree, and yet. Yes, and yet.
  • John Freeman;Lithub Shibli has created a powerful set of dual heroines, women wracked with disquiet and violence, resisting the frames that have first, been chosen for them, then denied to have ever existed. This is an astonishing, major book.
  • Publishers Weekly Exquisitely powerful: though focused on the finest details—flakes of rust against skin, the softness of grass—Shibli takes readers to the center of a family and a culture, using the same careful, dispassionate observation to report everyday events like the father's shaving as she does to depict the death of a sibling in area violence. Like a great volume of poetry, Shibli's prose has rhythm and unexpected momentum, and cries for rereading.
  • World Literature Today A short but powerful novel. Shibli interrogates a world of unstable and shifting boundaries and borders, from the Negev Desert a year after the 1948 war to a contemporary version of the tightly controlled lands of Palestine and Israel. Dreamlike, haunting prose.
  • Meena Kandasamy Adania Shibli's exceptional novel Minor Detail belongs to the genre of the novel as resistance, as revolutionary text. Simultaneously depicting the dehumanisation that surrounds rape and land-grab, it is a text that palpitates with fear and with outrage. As we join the nameless young woman in her quest to find the truth of a long-forgotten atrocity, we realize how dangerous it is to reclaim life and history in the face of ongoing, systematic erasure. The narrative tempo, that eventually reaches a crescendo, astutely captures how alienation and heightened anxiety are elemental states of living under Israeli occupation. This is the political novel we have all been waiting for.
  • J. M. Coetzee Adania Shibli takes a gamble in entrusting our access to the key event in her novel – the rape and murder of a young Bedouin woman – to two profoundly self-absorbed narrators – an Israeli psychopath and a Palestinian amateur sleuth high on the autism scale – but her method of indirection justifies itself fully as the book reaches its heart-stopping conclusion.
  • Pankaj Mishra An extraordinary work of art, Minor Detail is continuously surprising and absorbing: a very rare blend of moral intelligence, political passion, and formal virtuosity.
  • Prospect Magazine A palpable sense of dread pulses beneath Minor Detail. In Elisabeth Jaquette's fine translation from Arabic, Shibli asks how we can account for and understand major crimes, by looking more closely for the details that escape.
  • Alia Persico-Shammas;Community Bookstore "Like an...
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    New Directions
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