Minor Detail, Adania Shibli


December 2023

Adania Shibli was due to receive the Lißeraturpreis at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2023, but the ceremony was cancelled after the Hamas attacks on Israel.

Shibli, a Palestinian writer, had written about the abduction, rape and murder of a young Bedouin woman by Israeli soldiers in 1949, in her short novel Minor Detail, which publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions then made free to download.

They should have made us each pay a hundred pounds. Minor Detail is one of those books that hugely affects with the briefest of details. Ghibli’s spare prose and terrifying directness made me think of Mary Gaitskill and Claire Keegan.

The 1949 story, as Israel was in its literal infancy, is picked up by a present day Palestinian woman who becomes obsessed with this ‘minor detail’ in the history of the warring groups (I struggled for a word here, given I can’t legally call them warring ‘states’ as Palestine has not been afforded that geopolitical luxury).

What does writing like this mean, when the events of past months in Gaza - abduction, atrocities, genocide - show us we have learnt nothing? In these cases, writing means everything. To remember, record, narrate and illustrate the truth of humanity is an act of war but without the bloodshed.

You can buy Minor Detail for £4.99 at the Fitzcarraldo Editions website