The Palestinian return is never as envisaged. For Palestinian poet and author Hussein Barghouthi, his struggle with cancer prompted a return to Palestine from his “voluntary exile” after 30 years, as he describes his absence due to studies and work. Among the Almond Trees: A Palestinian Memoir (Seagull Books, 2022) is a literary narration of a return that is marred by the author’s impending death. Commencing with Barghouthi’s visit to the hospital in Ramallah at the time of the Second Intifada, he ponders his presence amid “the martyred and the wounded”, almost as if realising that his identity in the current political situation is somewhat lost.
Yet the author brings Palestine to life through rich, evocative recollections, observations and slivers from the past, to a present that is intrinsically woven into its history. Barghouthi’s return to Palestine with his wife and son is not always the primary focus of this literary memoir, as the author ponders his origins and the stories of his family, while occasionally, yet with bitterness at the loss of land, contrasts the memory of Palestine’s past and its untarnished land with the growing presence of colonial settlements.
“As I stood there among those ruins,” he writes, “I felt there was an enormous difference between the two kinds of light: moonlight, and the halogen light flooding out of the settlement. The latter is focused and oppressive, its glare extreme, reaching even beyond the barbed wire that isolates every such settlement from its environment.”
This book is on the shortlist for the Palestine Book Awards 2023, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine Book Awards site.