This Is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflections from the Palestine Festival of Literature

In This Is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflections from the Palestine Festival of Literature, an impressive, global team of writers reflect on their experiences traveling to the Palestinian Occupied Territories. They do so as participants in the literature festival, which was founded in 2008, despite security concerns and the controversy and "eyebrow-raising" that accompanies references to Palestine as separate and distinct from Israel.

Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif (The Map of Love) and the filmmaker and writer Omar Robert Hamilton (The City Always Wins) edited this collection, which rewards the reader with fascinating, intimate and brutally candid contributions from the likes of Henning Mankell, Michael Ondaatje, Claire Messud, Alice Walker, Jamal Mahjoub, Mohammed Hanif, J.M. Coetzee, Sabrina Mahfouz and Chinua Achebe, among others. Their writing expresses collective shock at the reality of occupation, the prison of Gaza and the devastating permanence of illegal settlements in the Palestinian landscape.

In her moving essay "Diary," Deborah Moggach (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) describes her "Kafkaesque journey into the West Bank... punctuated with checkpoints where teenage Israeli soldiers smoked in our face and disembodied Israeli voices ordered us through holding pens like cattle in an abattoir, where the high, hideous wall sliced through communities, cutting off farmers from their land and children from their schools...." The only way to cope, she concludes, "is through laughter, it's the only thing left."

The politics of the Middle East can be divisive, but This Is Not a Border transcends politics to reveal the common humanity of our world, to uncover optimism and hope in the most hopeless of places. Ultimately, the collection is a testament to the enduring power of art to unite people. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

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