Though written decades apart and in two different languages (Arabic and Hebrew), Emile Habiby’s The Pessoptimist, Anton Shammas’s Arabesques, and Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun are interrelated novels in a broader literary dialogue about 1948 and its aftermath for Palestinians. The novels’ respective narratives map the Palestinian experience onto spaces both larger and smaller than that of the nation, crossing borders between Lebanon, the Galilee, and the West Bank yet ultimately locating the heart of each story in a highly symbolic space: the cave. In the three novels, the cave becomes an alternative Palestinian space or “underground homeland” that may represent the lost Palestine of the past, the hope for a better future, or knowledge of the self. It is also used to portray intergenerational tensions in the Palestinian story. Collapsing time and space, reality and fantasy, the cave functions as a spatial expression of post-1948 Palestinian subjectivity.


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pp. 10-26
Launched on MUSE
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