ALFRED BIRCHER spent over fifty years conducting experiments in his botanical garden in al-Saff, Upper Egypt. He died in 1958. His daughter, WARDA BIRCHER, worked as a paleontologist for Shell Oil, before retiring with her husband to the garden in al-Saff, where they devoted themselves to conserving her father's work.
You can never go home again. That's the message in this impressionistic memoir by a Palestinian poet returning to the West Bank after 30 years of exile. Barghouti was in Cairo at the university when Israel won the Six-Day War and didn't return home until 1996, when the now-defunct Oslo Accords allowed him to go back. As one might expect, his return to see his birthplace and his family is fraught with problems, as he attempts to reconnect with relatives and friends. The people living in Ramallah and its physical geography have changed in ways that make Barghouti feel as displaced at home as he does abroad. The changes he blames partly on the weakness of his own people, but mostly on the Israelis. The truth of Palestinian faults "does not absolve the enemy of his original crime...." Indeed, the anger he feels at Israelis on both the left and the right helps explain why the Oslo peace process failed and why peace seems as elusive as ever. But this is as much a personal journey as a political one. Using a poet's eye for detail and language (the book is beautifully translated), Barghouti, who now lives in Cairo, intersperses the story of his homecoming with his history of journeys across the Arab world. "The displaced person becomes a stranger to his memories and so he tries to cling to them." His deft mind and words show how, for many Palestinians, politics have swallowed up the personal. (May 13) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Of the many books written in the past few decades about the plight of the Palestinians, this one is unique in that the author, a well-known Palestinian poet, brings to life the pain and suffering of exiles in a way that few books in English have been able to do. When the book first appeared in Arabic in 1997, it received universal praise in the Arab world and eventually won the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. As a student at Cairo University, the author found himself barred from returning home after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the occupation of the West Bank by the Israeli military. When Barghouti (who now lives in Cairo) was finally allowed to return for a brief visit to his homeland in the summer of 1996, he experienced the mix of emotions that define the life of any exile, ranging from joy to sadness to anger. The author's extraordinary ability to express his feelings, and by implication those of other Palestinians, in moving essays is what makes this book such an eloquent account of Palestinian existence today. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.