Tuesday, June 16, 2009
My Life As A Cow
Drawings of Naji Al-Ali were selected to illustrate this volume, and many of the stories approximate the late cartoonist's ability to reflect the viewpoint of the common man — the poor and the powerless who nonetheless maintain their dignity in the face of injustice.
In a novel approach reminiscent of American cartoonist Gary Larsen, who depicts human society as animals might see it, Nassar tells the story of a dairy farm sponsored by a popular committee during the first Intifada from the cows' viewpoint. While initially dismayed at being rounded up by persons who are obviously not real farmers, the cows come to enjoy producing milk for appreciative Palestinian children — only to discover that they are wanted by the occupation army for threatening the Israeli milk company's monopoly. Nassar employs a heavy dose of irony to illustrate how the most normal, innocent activities can be considered dangerous to the occupation.
In "The Friend of the Butterfly," Ibrahim weaves a heart-rending story steeped in suspense by skilfully alternating between two quite opposite points of view. A boy heading home from school in Aida Refugee Camp is distracted into following a beautiful butterfly, leading him towards an Israeli observation tower where, unbeknownst to him, a soldier is following him in his rifle sight. The boy's innocent fascination with the butterfly is juxtaposed with the soldier's morbid fascination with his weapon and indoctrinated fear of all that moves, culminating in a tragic outcome.
Several of the stories were written by Nassar Ibrahim, whom we met in Beit Sahour last week. The book is a very quick read, as I discovered on my flight from Paris to Boston. I devoured it. Heartbreaking work, and hauntingly beautiful.
Nassar is a charming, smart and funny man. I got a lot out of his presentation at the AIC office, and quite enjoyed sitting with him at lunch after. I'm so happy to have met him and to now have an autographed copy of his book.
He said a lot of insightful, evocative things, with a few in particular really sticking with me:
- Regarding "a land without a people for a people without a land": if the land had no people, with whom are you fighting these 60 years?
- On the probs of a two state solution: not workable with a wall like a snake around our neck, territory like swiss cheese, full of settlements and 600+ checkpoints.
- Don't feel sorry for us. We are still here. Just keep doing your jobs back home: fighting for women's rights, equality, justice, etc, is the greatest support for us because we are fighting for the same thing.
The life of Palestinians is like something written by Kafka after dropping acid. But they are still there, and it's a damned powerful resistance against a regime that wants them to disappear.
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