Beyond Spatial-Temporal Narratives in Palestinian Literature: The Case of Ḥussein Barghoutī

By Haneen Omari
Submitted to Session P4515 (Between Folklore, Literature, and Politics: Circulation of Narratives in the Eastern Mediterranean, 2016 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The configurations of the year 1948, and the loss of the land of Palestine have become normative spatial-temporal pillars in the writing and reading of modern Palestinian literature. This paper explores how the Palestinian author Ḥussein Barghoutī (1954-2002) challenges this normativity through minimizing this political moment as the primary element in the creation of the Palestinian narrative. Many of Barghoutī’s works have been criticized as incongruous with the larger, national, narrative of Palestinian literature, and critiqued for their focus on episodes of personal turmoil and marginal issues. By looking at the author's stylistic and thematic notions, this paper focuses on how Barghoutī’s works offer a form of fluidity that widen the understanding of the bounded spatial-temporal definition of “resistance” in the canon of Palestinian literature. The paper takes Barghoutī’s works as a starting point for reading beyond the political essentialization and, therefore, shows the multi-dimensionality and mobility of the Palestinian narrative. Trespassing the political entrenchment of the narrative opens the space for observing new literary, cultural, and social commonalities and ties between Palestinian literature and Arabic and World literature.
Barghoutī uses implicit and explicit Sufi references in his writings (the first line of his most famous autobiography al-daw’ al-azraq reads: “I met him: a Sufi from Konya, Turkey, one of the Whirling Dervishes, the followers of Mawlānā Jalal al-Dīn Rūmi…” (2004, 5)). This paper focuses on the contestation, malleability, and moulding of these Sufi themes, figures, and narratives. It investigates Barghoutī’s invocation of “light,” “mirrors,” and “void” (all features of Sufi philosophies), and couples them with theoretical concepts like “the embroidered-time” and the “collage.” This examination shows how Barghoutī’s works highlight the transformative nature of past Sufi narratives, and trespass the boundaries of the seemingly inescapable politicization of Palestinian literature.
Through a close reading of some of his fictional and critical works, this paper will show how Barghoutī does not discredit the creation of a politically driven narrative; but instead criticizes the essence of this creation, which aims to pre-fixate the boundaries, concepts, and aspirations of this narrative. In other words, it demonstrates how Barghoutī questions the assertion of the discovered nature of the political narrative as a given, and calls for the act of discovering new and experimental forms and angles of writings, which, in turn, create an alternative way of reading the Palestinian narrative.