The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

The Parisian

Isabella Hammad

Between the wars, Palestine struggles for independence from British authority, while Midhat faces many personal challenges. Educated in France, his mannerisms are seen as narcissistic and shallow on his return to Palestine. Midhat must balance traditional family loyalties and an arranged marriage with his freedom and the pursuit of love. This is a beautifully written story which highlights a political canvas that is still relevant today.

Extract

Nablus was where his duty lay. He was indebted to his father, and for that alone he must marry. This debt was arranged before he was born. His father's care was always based on this future sense, that Midhat would mature like a bond and yield to him. So although one might be convinced momentarily that family ties were petty, in the end, as Jamil said, they were everything.
Darkness rose in the windows, and the fire glowed more brightly. Midhat stopped thinking, and as the flame clarified in the corner of his vision, reflexively he played a game from his childhood. When he looked at the fire directly the edge receded into a blur: the game was to move his eyes fast enough to catch the flame when it was most clear, and there was no end because it was impossible.
"You'll have to decide soon, ya Midhat," said Teta suddenly. She dropped her sewing into her lap. "You can't do nothing," her voice grew higher, "and not decide. Because we have to find another girl, and then it could be too late. Too late!"
"Teta, it has been one day since you asked me."...
She stood up and something flew by. It was her sewing; she had thrown it onto the sofa.
"I'm finished. You do whatever you like. Fatima Hammad will be married to her cousin, your father will disinherit you, and then you'll be sorry, and alone, or with a stupid cow who will bear you no sons."
She bent and plucked up the sewing again, then slammed the door, leaving Midhat alone in the dark room. His breath was heavy. He looked straight at the blurred edge of the flame.

Parallels
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  • A Palestine Affair by David Willington
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry