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I Saw Ramallah Paperback – May 13, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Poet Barghouti puts a personal face on the plight of displaced Palestinians in this account that is as much politically tinged lament as memoir. Thirty years--and nine volumes of verse--after being deported from his home in Cairo, he was permitted to return to the home of his youth on the West Bank in 1997. "Displacement is like death," he states. "One thinks it happens only to other people." Yet he describes himself as just one of four million displaced Palestinians who have no airline, police, TV, or government. Several months after the Six Days War, when his son was just five months old, Barghouti was taken for "preventative deportation" and separated from his family for most of the next 17 years before being allowed back in Egypt. He targets Anwar Sadat, responsible for the deportation that deprived him of having other children, and various Israeli leaders, who headed the occupation he calls a crime. Interspersed vignettes portraying the author's life are often charming but sometimes confusing in terms of chronology and emphasis--only at midbook is his deportation detailed, and even then it's not fully explained--and repetition dulls the message. Still, this relentless account, first published in 1997 in the Arab world, reflects the acuity and sensitivity of a poet (with an occasional verse included) and provides an underrepresented point of view. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032660
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032662
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Christiansen on June 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
For a person with little exposure to conflict in the Mid-East, this is a very good book. He mentions a couple of wars that I'd never known about because of my age, which sparked interest. But more than that, his emphasis is on the HUMAN ASPECT of these conflicts, which current affair venues skim over. Barghouti mentions the conflicts and assassinations he's seen and felt through his life only as a backdrop to the way the people he knows and loves have been affected.

This is not a light read. The author addresses emotionally draining topics. But there was a sense of healing through the journey and resolution of the book, and a universal spirituality that unites humanity. It is a very powerful book.

This book was given to me, and I'm very glad because I would never have sought it out on my own. It is a surprising story which tells of pain and loss, and still offers hope.
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Format: Paperback
I had not heard of Mourid Barghouti before I chanced upon this book in the store, but the names of two people and a place on a beckoning Mediterranean blue cover, was enough stimulus to want to know more. The people - Edward Said and Naguib Mahfouz; the place - Ramallah. It took a couple of days to read and more than measured up to the high expectations raised by the cover.
This is not a book that can be slotted with the usual political commentaries that line the shelves. Mourid is first a poet and everything else comes next and this book confirms that. What you will find is a poignant and lyrical description of life as a displaced Palestinian and Barghouti's first hand account, tells of the struggle with a clarity of experience that is sure to shake the most cynical of readers. For, displacement is a journey that threatens with a new reality every day; an insecurity that forces frequent adaptation to its ever-changing circumstances. Situational adjustments are forced out of people for sheer survival and come with potent mixtures of confusion, shame, anger, grief and loneliness. Mourid's journey describes all this and more, compelling a new understanding that is heavy on the soul.
The text is interlaced with his translated poetry and in every instance where a poem is used to accentuate sensibilities, the blend with prose is seamless, fluid and successful. Aside from the overall impact of the book, two things that I would like to single out: the powerful metaphorical symbols of the bridge and the swing and the little anecdotes of growing up in Ramallah, the fig tree, Big Uncle Fakhri, Sanduqa bookshop. They left me marveling at the remarkable ability of the people to effect some small stab at normalcy and innocence and Mourid's dogged resolve to document that.
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Format: Paperback
Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti tells of a brief return to the West Bank where he lived as a boy and now may visit only by permission of the Israeli occupation authority. It is a bittersweet homecoming told with a poet's sensibility, emotions reflected in what seem like fragments of free association, as he remembers the years between 1948 and 1967 and notes the many changes that have taken place during his absence, from the growth of Israeli settlements to the impact of liberation politics on a new generation.

Identified as a dissident in the aftermath of 1967, he was expelled from Egypt where he had been a university student, was married and had become a new father. Barghouti has since lived as a displaced person in several different countries, a member of the Palestinian diaspora. He writes of his particular kind of homelessness with poignancy and sharp clarity. Interwoven are accounts of the deaths of friends and his brother Mounif, lost to the dark forces of political strife. Not surprisingly, there is anger, as well, in Barghouti's book. Anyone with an interest in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine would do well to hear him out.
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Format: Hardcover
As a person who has lived in the Middle East for most of my adult life, and someone who has scores of very lovable Arab friends, yet married into a Jewish family with loads of Jewish friends, I was instantly drawn to this book. During these dangerous times, when the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians might well spark devastating nuclear war, it is so important for readers to understand both sides of this issue, for only with knowledge and understanding will this dangerous conflict ever be resolved. With "I Saw Ramallah" I thought about another book, titled "Ester's Child," which was required reading in a college class, (and many of my classmates agreed it was one of the best books we'd ever read), letting the reader into the lives of the Israelis and the Palestinians, yet inspiring understanding rather than hatred, which most books about these two nationalities do--its as though you are required to be on one side or the other--when instead we need to be on the side of humanity.
Now with this very valuable book, the reader comes to feel that he/she has been banned from their own home, and the desolation of the spirit at such a horrifying turn of events is sooooo painful.
I wish more people were reading this book. It's a beauty, written by a poet with enormous talent. It makes me wish more than ever that those who have lost their homes, could all return to the days once lived, and that peace would finally come to the land of Israel.
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