Like Cattle in an Abbatoir

Debborah Moggach and Suheir Hammad respond to conditions in Hebron/al-Khalil
Debborah Moggach and Suheir Hammad respond to conditions in Hebron/al-Khalil

More on Palfest. Deborah Moggach, author of 16 novels and the screenplay for ‘Pride and Prejudice’, describes her week on the West Bank, below. It is important that this is on the Books pages, rather than the news pages, of the Guardian – culture offers an opportunity to reach people beyond the usual channels. Read to the end for Sousan Hammad’s beautifully-written piece on the literature festival.

I’m still recovering from a tumultuous week in Palestine where, between 23 and 28 May, 16 writers from around the world took part in the Palestine Festival of Literature (Palfest). It was started last year by Ahdaf Soueif as a way of bringing poets, journalists, publishers and novelists to the occupied territories to celebrate, in Edward Said’s words, “the power of culture over the culture of power”. There’s nothing else quite like it: due to the restrictions on movement, it is we, the visitors, who bring the mountain to Muhammad, travelling around in a bus visiting towns in the West Bank to do readings with Palestinian writers, stage music and poetry events, conduct workshops with students and visit refugee camps. This year’s group included Michael Palin, Henning Mankell, Claire Messud, Jamal Mahjoub, Abdulrazak Gurnah and the dazzling poet/performer Suheir Hammad.

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