Karmi's stunning memoir is remarkable. Extraordinarily well-written,
it is the amazingly honest story of a Palestinian woman of exceptional
self-awareness. Hers is a story of exile and displacement
rich in detail and human experience. Karmi is excellent on the
quality of family and even communal life in Mandatory Palestine
also has a wonderfully subtle way of showing how in thousands
of different ways the political and the personal intermesh,
and this she does with a skill and insight that could be a novelist's
EDWARD W. SAID
For those confused by the current conflict between Israelis
and Palestinians, In Search of Fatima is essential reading.
An intimate and personal narrative presented, unusually, from
the point of view of a Palestinian woman, the book reflects
the author's personal experiences of displacement and loss against
a backdrop of the major political events which have shaped the
destiny of the middle east.
war that ended with the establishment of the State of Israel
compelled Ghada Karmi's family to leave Jerusalem when she was
a child - to live, ironically enough, in Golders Green, a Jewish
neighbourhood in north London. Her attempts at assimilation
into English society were gradually thwarted by both internal
and external influences: the frustration of watching her mother
cling to Palestinian social customs in London, and political
events in the world she had left - the Suez crisis and the 1967
Arab-Israeli war in particular - prompted a growing sense of
Arab identity and a re-examination of her sense of belonging
in Britain. In the 1970s, this disillusionment was channelled
into political activism; she established Palestine Action in
London and became a regular visitor to the Middle East, meeting
Yasser Arafat and PLO officials. Yet, as a westernised Arab
woman she never quite fitted in and the realities of Palestinian
political life were quite different to her experiences in London.
The Palestine she remembered from her youth seemed lost forever.
Returning to Jerusalem in the 1990s to find the house where
she was born, Dr Karmi finds she must re-examine her past and
face an unpalatable truth about herself
Search of Fatima is a powerful biographical story, but it is
also a book which transcends its author's own experience. It
speaks for the millions of displaced people all over the world
who have lived suspended between their old and new countries,
fitting into neither. An account not of the physical hardship
and abuse suffered by many refugees, this is rather an exploration
of the subtler privations of psychological displacement and
loss of identity.
Karmi was born in Jerusalem and left Palestine for England in
1949. She practised as a doctor for many years working as a
specialist in the health of migrants and refugees, and held
a number of research appointments on Middle Eastern politics
and culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Durham
University and Leeds University. From 1999 to 2001 she was an
Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs,
where she led a major project on Israel-Palestinian reconciliation.
Her publications include "Jerusalem Today: What Future
for the Peace Process?" and, as co-editor with E. Cotran,
"The Palestinian Exodus, 1948-1998."
Publication date: 24 October 2002 Hardback Price: £16
ISBN: 1-85984-694 7
review copies will be available from the 24th of September.
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