A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people
Finalist for the National Book Award
Longlisted for the International Booker Prize
Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba—the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people—and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand.
Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.
Shibli's startling, cinematic novel (after Touch) centers on crimes against Palestinians in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War and in the present. In August 1949, a group of Israeli soldiers enters the Negev, a desert region in southern Israel, led by an unnamed maniacal officer who's secretly suffering from a venomous bug bite. The soldiers ambush and kill a group of unarmed Bedouins, then return to their camp with the sole survivor, a young Arab woman whose tragic fate is tied to the officer's rapidly deteriorating state. In the 2000s, a Palestinian woman in the West Bank reads an article about these events and becomes obsessed with learning more after realizing they occurred 25 years to the day before she was born. Borrowing a colleague's ID card to leave the West Bank and enter Israel, despite her fear of borders, which "shake and destabilize me to the point that I can no longer fathom what is permissible and what is not," she heads to the site of the crime. Shibli's masterly, acidic work of subtle symbolism and plot symmetry gives no access to the thoughts of the Israeli soldiers or their victim, making the Palestinian woman's subsequent first-person narration all the more arresting. This is a remarkable exercise in dramatizing a desire for justice.