Synopses & Reviews
A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people
Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature
Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba — the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people — and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand.
Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.
"Adania Shibli takes a gamble in entrusting our access to the key event in her novel – the rape and murder of a young Bedouin woman – to two profoundly self-absorbed narrators – an Israeli psychopath and a Palestinian amateur sleuth high on the autism scale – but her method of indirection justifies itself fully as the book reaches its heart-stopping conclusion." J. M. Coetzee
"An extraordinary work of art, Minor Detail is continuously surprising and absorbing: a very rare blend of moral intelligence, political passion, and formal virtuosity." Pankaj Mishra
"A short but powerful novel. Shibli interrogates a world of unstable and shifting boundaries and borders, from the Negev Desert a year after the 1948 war to a contemporary version of the tightly controlled lands of Palestine and Israel. Dreamlike, haunting prose." World Literature Today
"The terror Shibli evokes intensifies slowly, smouldering, until it is shining off the page... The book is, at every turn, dangerously and devastatingly good." The Guardian
"A palpable sense of dread pulses beneath Minor Detail. In Elisabeth Jaquette’s fine translation from Arabic, Shibli asks how we can account for and understand major crimes, by looking more closely for the details that escape." Prospect Magazine
About the Author
Adania Shibli was born in Palestine in 1974, holds a Ph.D. from the University of East London, and has published three novels in Arabic. She splits her time between Berlin and Jerusalem.
Elisabeth Jaquette is a translator from the Arabic and Executive Director of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA).