A Massacre in Palestine – 70 years since Nakba

Free Palestine

As usual, it has been quite some time since my last post. But, something has prompted me to write after a long time, when I had been lost for words for so long. I wish this had not been the case, for the topic today is something which I would rather ignore, but cannot.

As anyone who watches the news will know, the world was shaken on Monday by a disaster of epic proportions – the massacre of at least 60 Palestinian protesters in occupied Gaza by Israel, with over 2000 people injured. This was as a direct result of the USA’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, what Israel claims to be its capital.

Politics, the history, the facts, and the reasons aside, this was a crime against humanity. It was a departure from the elemental human characteristic of compassion – and the smugness with which Israel and the USA have handled it only exacerbates it.

So, the time for conciliatory words is over. And so, unlike my previous post, condemning terrorism, I will be direct. For, as soon as I saw the image of eight-month-old baby Laila who had been murdered by Israel, it incited an anger unparalleled! And this is my response. An attempt, possibly useless and all over the place, at processing the death of so many simply because the Trump-Netanyahu bromance was thirsting for blood once again.

Firstly, I am not opposed to Jewish people. Indeed, I used the intellect of a great Jewish personality, Lesley Hazleton, in my former plea for mercy on people of the Muslim faith. So, using her intellect, while despising her would be deeply hypocritical, something which I vehemently proclaim not to be.

Israel as a state should not exist. To me, based on fact, on history, on logic, there is no two-state solution. That is an ideal for sentimentalists, religious fanatics and people who are propagating their own agendas. For, Israel is the creation of European powers who could no longer deal with their Jewish inhabitants, casting them out, at the expense of the Palestinian people.

In strolls, the orange-faced, yellow-haired, small handed toddler. Rather, forget that (since I am writing a compassionate piece, let me not ridicule a man for his physical impairments). So, in strolls Donald Trump. In my last plea for compassion I had not explicitly taken his wretched name, but now, my anger, and no further need to visit the United States in the near future, compels me to name this man who incites images of a plague, or racism, of the KKK, of Hitler (yes I am not anti-Semitic, I wrote a biography of Hitler), the Apartheid regime, Benjamin Netanyahu, slavery, Islamophobia, and bigoted indifference coupled with white supremacist and patriarchal smugness (is that a thing?). Anyway, back to the point, in strolls, or rather stumbles, Donald Trump, or POTUS as he is so lovingly called by the many AMERICANS (not Palestinians) who voted for him. Sorry? Did I just write a whole paragraph hating on Donald Trump, abandoning the high English you have become accustomed to? Well, firstly, I could carry on, mentioning every member of his sick family, including dear, sweet, loving Ivanka Trump. Secondly, he brings out the worst in me.

Evidently, he brings out the worst in the Israelis too. Disastrous, given the USA’s ill-advised and self-proclaimed role as chief negotiator between Israel and Palestine.

Going back to Israel, in its formation, it was fundamentally the answer to the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and the pogroms which had begun to overtake Europe around the early twentieth century. Of course, that was not the sole factor, but it was one of the large determining ones. And so, it was decided by the powers that be, to repatriate the Jewish nation in accordance with the testament of a God adhered to by Jews and some Christians – not entirely fair is it?

And so began a cascade of events resulting in what is today known as Nakba (literally, disaster), the 70th year anniversary of which is this year. Strangely, imagining 70 years, one would imagine that the events of that dark 1948 were forgotten, but they were not. For just as the Indians can remember their independence in  1948 so clearly, the Palestinians can remember the loss of theirs equally.

And it brings us back to the issue of home – where do people belong? The argument for the Israeli state is that it is the home of the Jewish people. But this is fundamentally flawed, not only because it is based on the testament of a God that is not universally accepted by all concerned parties, but because the return of a people centuries after their exodus is not only unusual, it is ludicrous (literally to Biblical proportions). It is like suddenly waking up one day and saying that Anglo-Saxon descendants are no longer welcome in England, and sending them off to Germany (from where they came 1000 odd years before), displacing the present German inhabitants in the process.

Obviously, with modern sensibilities, there is no way that Israel or a two-state solution makes sense. That is not to say that all Israeli people should return to Europe, for that is equally as silly (see, the logic must be applied universally, without bias, take notes, Donald Trump).

But this dynamic instead should give us, and importantly, Israel, an insight into what the plight of the Palestinians really is. For as equally as about history and religion as this war is, it is about finding a home. And the fact is, in finding theirs, Israel has taken away Palestine’s.

I do not see an immediate resolution to the 70-year-old problem. Especially not without skilful negotiator twiddling his thumbs across the Atlantic Ocean. But my hope is, that perhaps with this understanding of that has caused the present issue, the Israeli and Palestinian factions can find common ground, not in their skilful negotiators, or lengthy talks, nor in imposed peace treaties, but by the simple understanding of the similarities between the Jewish history and the Palestinian present. And then perhaps, this mutual search for a home can see peace being restored to the Holy Land.

Arrowood – A Haunting Tale of Accidental Deaths and Charming Period Mansions

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Yesterday, I wrote about The Historian – a slow and lengthy read. I also mentioned that I had read a similar book recently. This book is called Arrowood.

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood by Laura McHugh
Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Like The Historian, I cannot deny that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

It tells the story of Arden Arrowood returning to her childhood home – Arrowood – a large period mansion in the small town of Keokuk in Iowa.

But with the return of her home comes the return of a mystery that has haunted her all her life – the disappearance of her twin sisters when she was just eight. Ever since, her life has never been the same. Constantly moving around the country, her parents divorced, a humanities degree that doesn’t seem to help her, and a disastrous end to an ill-advised relationship.

Arden hopes that her return to the place she once called home will be the return to her life before the disappearance of her sisters.

Instead, their disappearance returns to haunt her, and Arrowood. So, she is propelled into a search for the truth with amateur investigator Josh Kyle. However, the answer is something she never could have imagined, and never could have possibly asked for.

But out of it, she gains not only closure, but the rekindling of old friendships, the start of a budding romance and a way forward from her tumultuous past.

What I didn’t like about it

To be honest, I expected a horror novel. Or rather, a mystery suspense thriller. It was one, but unusually so. Conventionally, novels of such a description do not take long to show the reader some action. So, it came as a surprise when I had finished reading one hundred pages and still had yet to see the exciting and violent confrontations, the amateur sleuthing or the horror of the disappearance of the twins.

To me, that was slightly disappointing. But, not enough to take away a star for my rating of this novel, which I would still give five stars. For, despite the lack of a ‘rush’, the novel kept me going in anticipation of that rush.

Despite how slow the novel went (I’m used to the fast-paced, one-night, Dan Brown thrillers), I thoroughly enjoyed the aspects that it was laden with.

So here’s what I loved about it

First of all, McHugh really knew what she was writing about when she described the town of Keokuk. Coupled with the vivid nostalgia that Arden conveys to the reader – the food, the drinks, the festivals, the experiences – the description that McHugh conveyed to my mind was exactly in keeping with what I read and saw of the town on Google.

In addition, I really loved the focus that McHugh placed on the opulent lifestyle of the past and how she contrasted it with the decaying lifestyle of the present. She did so through masterful descriptions of the styles of various period mansions around the town as well as with the frequent mention of how history graced Arrowood itself – the mouldings, the rich wallpaper, the panelled wood, the massive rooms, the antique furniture, even the noisy pipes. As someone who appreciates the old charm of such homes, it was a pleasure to see what a heavy influence the character of Arrowood had on Arden.

Furthermore, McHugh placed subtle clues of the hidden truth all through the novel. This was masterfully done with images of the rivers Mississippi and Des Moines, their confluence, water as a central element in Arden’s life, and the frequent floodings of various areas of Arrowood.

Chillingly, she tied in these signs with hair raising scenes that leave you wondering whether or not the missing Arrowood twins – Violet and Tabitha – really do haunt the house. And, there are enough of these well placed scenes to keep the book compelling just as one may think it is getting too boring. It certainly kept me up reading till two thirty in the morning.

And, finally, the end came, and with it, the violent confrontation that I had been waiting for.

In conclusion

Arrowood is definitely a novel that I will revisit. And, Laura McHugh is definitely an author that I will follow.

Despite its pacing, Arrowood had enough to make me love it. And, looking back, the setting was as such, that it could be no other way. With McHugh’s excellent storytelling skills, it is definitely a book that I will give five stars. And, it is definitely a book that I would recommend to others.

The Grand Reveal: More on The Monk’s Curse

Literary Reinvention - The Monk's Curse Banner

Presenting: The Monk’s Curse

From the heat of Arizona to the snow deep in mountain ranges, to Istanbul, The Monk’s Curse will plunge you into a strange world – ever shifting – that will tickle your senses and keep your heart racing.

A few weeks, or was it months, ago, I announced here that I would be redefining my online literary persona. In doing so, I redesigned my website, unpublished all my books, and immediately began working on The Monk’s Curse.

Now, in the beginning, I did not reveal much. To be precise, this is what I said:

One of the things that have sparked this reinvention was the conception of The Monk’s Curse. I can’t say much about it, but I describe it as the riveting story of a boy, a prophecy, and a monk. It’s a story where East meets West and the Islamic Caliphate meets Christendom. Oh no, I have said too much! What I can say is that while writing this novel I have made up the most outrageous of fake histories, the evilest and naive of characters and the most scholarly prose. You won’t find too many action scenes in this novel. It is a political masterpiece with constant machinations going on behind the scenes. If you are anyhow interested in scholarly and political mysteries, keep your eye out for this book.

But, here’s more:

Basically, all I knew when I began writing was what I had told you all. There would be a boy, a monk’s curse (the prophecy), and a whole host of complex characters.

But, as I began to write it, I noticed that I was focussing less on the monk’s curse and more on where the plot was taking me. To be precise, I noticed that my characters were leading my fingers as they typed. Well, what I mean to say is that my words were being guided by the story itself, and not my mind. Now, to seasoned authors, or readers who follow authors closely, this idea would seem quite a cliche. I suppose it is, but I also suppose is that that is what creates a great story.

In the beginning

So, when I began, there was a curse, a boy affected by the curse, and a few secret societies manoeuvring for control of the boy and for supremacy. That was the first chapter.

In the second chapter

Here is where I discovered how intricate the story would become. A minor member of one of the secret societies addresses his masters after committing certain acts. His masters are furious and order him to cease the carrying out of those acts. This is where the antagonist is born – an antagonist I didn’t even know I wanted.

After that

It gets better. I started writing about characters whom I had identified as the ‘good guys’, but as if under a monk’s curse I encountered confusion, in myself and in my characters. I could no longer tell who was good and who was bad. Who could the boy trust? Who could we, the readers, trust?

And this all went on and on. Soon, I started a habit which I had always read about but had resigned as unnecessary: the habit of sporadic note taking. I had to do this because with the twists came brilliant new ideas: ideas of dialogue, assassinations and hidden histories. Right now, I have about ten memos, and I can’t even remember what they relate to. Alas, the note taking tip doesn’t work!

But, why am I telling you all of this?

Readers often don’t care about the creative process, and I must admit, neither do I. I couldn’t care less how J.K. Rowling or J.R.R Tolkien conceived their epics. However, I am telling you all of this, because I wish to pass on one simple message. If this story can surprise me, imagine how it will surprise you. I love to read books that keep me on the edge of my seat, and I can promise you that this one will.

From the heat of Arizona to the snow deep in mountain ranges, to Istanbul, this novel will plunge you into a strange world – ever shifting – that will tickle your senses and keep your heart racing.