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Simple and impersonal like murder

Put in the shoes of Juergen Boos, the director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and sharing his fear of irritating the Zionist government of Israel, I would also have canceled the ceremony scheduled for the presentation of the LiBeraturpreis prize to the Palestinian writer Adania Shibli.

And A Minor Detail, Shibli's novel that was awarded that prize, is a devastating document when it comes to representing the situation of the Palestinian people under the Israeli neocolonial regime.

The curious thing, or it would be better to say the intelligent thing, is that the writer does not include in this work any direct allegations or denunciations against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories or against the continued genocide that has been committed there since at least 1948.
On the contrary, Shibli almost completely avoids any accusatory discourse and concentrates, with refined realism, on the description of the simplest everyday actions and on a keen management of emotions.

Divided into two parts, the story also takes place in two historical moments, separated by a quarter of a century. In both parts, the narrative closely follows only two characters through whom the setting and the events that comprise it unfold.

Also read the literary criticism about the same book The scandalous silence of the crime by Raúl Cazal

In the first part, the narrator describes the work of an Israeli army officer in command of a brigade in charge of clearing the territory assigned to them of Arabs. There is no other focus for the narrator other than this officer whose soldiers, as a whole, form the necessary props to display the movements of the one giving the orders. If the voice that narrates focuses only on the concrete, physical actions of the character, it is because he is incapable of externalizing any feeling.

In fact, the narrative unfolds with a stark objectivity, one might say soulless; and what I have called an acute management of emotions takes shape here, paradoxically, in the total absence of any emotion. There is, of course, a routine that is deployed mechanically, without value judgments, which leaves aside the appearance of any emotionality. No one is moved by the reality that seems to have fallen from the sky like an unquestionable block. So the final execution of a girl kidnapped and repeatedly raped is carried out, without euphoria, without sadness, almost without cruelty. An episode typical of the Greek ananké and its embodiment of the inevitable.

Thus the existence of an autonomous machinery is revealed that murders, perhaps, without cruelty, but, equally, without remorse.

In the second part, Adania Shibli makes a 180-degree turn and, maintaining the scheme of a single actant, dedicates herself to the description of an adventure whose essential part happens in the character's inner world. In this case, a Palestinian journalist who enters the territory under Israeli control in search of information about the young woman murdered in the first part.

The narrative is consumed here in the recounting of inconsequential events: moving from one place to another, getting in or out of the car, facing a military post, asking for directions, locating oneself on a map. Only, under the prevailing state of siege, those simple actions become incredibly complicated, while at the same time they are loaded with unthinkable violence.

What is nuclear here is the torrent of emotions that invade the character and that Adania Shibli describes with a mastery capable of transferring all the tension to the reader. Anxiety, fear, insecurity sustain the story. The exterior is only transcendent insofar as it provokes this interior whirlwind. A whirlwind that, in order not to alter the path that the author has outlined, is never told from the consciousness of a group, but from the individual perspective, almost as if it were a lack of the individual and not a collective matter.

In A Minor Detail, Shibli has found a powerfully original way to denounce, without his speech losing an iota of aesthetic value; one of those rare examples in which literature assumes a political vision without compromising its creative capacity.
Juergen Boos knew well what he was doing when he censored this novel.

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