A review by abbie_
Minor Detail, by Adania Shibli

challenging dark reflective sad slow-paced
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
Thank you @fitzcarraldoeditions for sending me a free copy of Minor Detail by Adania Shibli to review! This slim but powerful novella has been translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette, and I honestly think it's one of the finest translations FitzCarraldo have got in their catalogue - and they have a LOT of fantastic translated literature.
Split into two even halves, Minor Detail first recounts the horrific gang rape of a young Palestinian woman at the hands of Israeli soldiers in 1949, one year after the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians. This section is told from the perspective of one of the soldiers, in sparse, unforgiving prose. It feels hypnotic as Shibli focuses on day-to-day activities in the camp, including the soldier's ablutions and his treatment of a nasty infected bite. Shibli masterfully makes the reader live the story alongside the characters.
Fast forward many years, and another young Palestinian woman has come across this 'minor detail' of history in an article, and she's determined to find out more. She feels connected to the young woman of 1949, as her death occurred exactly 25 years to the day before she was born.  This woman becomes fixated on uncovering more of the story of the 1949 woman. But the further she travels on her perilous journey, the more she realises the event has been wiped from history. It stops you in your tracks and forces you to consider the myriad other atrocities that have occurred over history, but that are considered too minor for any proper record to be made, erasing them from collective memory.
The second section shifts from third-person Israeli perspective to first-person Palestinian perspective, and although the two halves feel different, they also complement one another. Smells and other small details recur in both halves, provoking a sense of déjà vu in the reader. Shibli's writing made me feel claustrophobic and tense during particularly harrowing parts, and that's through a layer of translation too so Elisabeth Jaquette did such a stellar job here!
This one is only 112 pages so if you think your TBR is too full for August and #WomeninTranslationMonth, think again!