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IN SEARCH OF FATIMA: A Palestinian Story
BY
GHADA KARMI

"Ghada Karmi's stunning memoir is remarkable. Extraordinarily well-written, it is the amazingly honest story of a Palestinian woman of exceptional self-awareness. Hers is a story of exile and displacement … rich in detail and human experience. Karmi is excellent on the quality of family and even communal life in Mandatory Palestine…she also has a wonderfully subtle way of showing how in thousands of different ways the political and the personal intermesh, and this she does with a skill and insight that could be a novelist's envy."
    – EDWARD W. SAID


For those confused by the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, In Search of Fatima is essential reading. An intimate and personal narrative presented, unusually, from the point of view of a Palestinian woman, the book reflects the author's personal experiences of displacement and loss against a backdrop of the major political events which have shaped the destiny of the middle east.

The war that ended with the establishment of the State of Israel compelled Ghada Karmi's family to leave Jerusalem when she was a child - to live, ironically enough, in Golders Green, a Jewish neighbourhood in north London. Her attempts at assimilation into English society were gradually thwarted by both internal and external influences: the frustration of watching her mother cling to Palestinian social customs in London, and political events in the world she had left - the Suez crisis and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war in particular - prompted a growing sense of Arab identity and a re-examination of her sense of belonging in Britain. In the 1970s, this disillusionment was channelled into political activism; she established Palestine Action in London and became a regular visitor to the Middle East, meeting Yasser Arafat and PLO officials. Yet, as a westernised Arab woman she never quite fitted in and the realities of Palestinian political life were quite different to her experiences in London. The Palestine she remembered from her youth seemed lost forever. Returning to Jerusalem in the 1990s to find the house where she was born, Dr Karmi finds she must re-examine her past and face an unpalatable truth about herself…

In Search of Fatima is a powerful biographical story, but it is also a book which transcends its author's own experience. It speaks for the millions of displaced people all over the world who have lived suspended between their old and new countries, fitting into neither. An account not of the physical hardship and abuse suffered by many refugees, this is rather an exploration of the subtler privations of psychological displacement and loss of identity.

Ghada Karmi was born in Jerusalem and left Palestine for England in 1949. She practised as a doctor for many years working as a specialist in the health of migrants and refugees, and held a number of research appointments on Middle Eastern politics and culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Durham University and Leeds University. From 1999 to 2001 she was an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, where she led a major project on Israel-Palestinian reconciliation. Her publications include "Jerusalem Today: What Future for the Peace Process?" and, as co-editor with E. Cotran, "The Palestinian Exodus, 1948-1998."


Publication date: 24 October 2002 Hardback Price: £16 ISBN: 1-85984-694 7

Finished review copies will be available from the 24th of September. To discuss extracts or promotions please contact Gavin Everall (gavine@verso.co.uk) or Fiona Price (fionap@verso.co.uk), telephone 020 7437 3546.


 

 

 

 

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