WE ARE ALL EQUALLY FAR FROM LOVE
A young woman is instructed by her boss to write a letter to an older man. His reply begins an enigmatic but passionate love affair conducted entirely in letters. Until, that is, his letters stop coming. But did the letters ever reach their intended recipient? Only the teenage Afaf, who works at the local post office, would know. Her duty is to open the mail and inform her collaborator father of the contents-until she finds a mysterious set of love letters, for which she selects another destiny. Afaf has lived in shame ever since her mother left her father for another man. And in this novel, her story is followed in turn by another: the story of a woman who leaves her husband for someone else, to whom she declares her love in a letter... The chain of stories that make up this singular novel form a wrenching examination of relationships and their limits- tenuous, oblique, and momentous.
In prose at once fierce and subtle, We Are All Equally Far from Love is a haunting portrait of alienation and desire.
'We Are All Equally Far From Love ... will confirm the young Galilee-born writer's reputation as a formally brilliant literary artist, whose stylistic innovations and bold feel for language affirm contemporary fiction's capacity to be reinvented anew ... Shibli's aesthetic vision and her tight thematic focus produce, against the odds, a work of stunning coherence that feels cinematic, as though colored by Jim Jarmusch or Wong Kar-wai.' Emma Garman, Words Without Borders
Clockroot Books/Interlink Publishing US & UK
Actes Sud France
Material: Arabic edition; English translation available.
WINNER OF THE A.M. QATTAN YOUNG WRITER - PALESTINE AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2011 BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARDS
Touch centers on a girl, the youngest of nine sisters in a Palestinian family. In the singular world of this novella, this young woman’s everyday experiences—watching a funeral procession, fighting with her siblings, learning to read, perhaps falling in love—resonate until they have become as weighty as any national tragedy. The smallest sensations compel, the events of history only lurk at the edges—the question of Palestine, the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. In a language that feels at once natural and alienated, Shibli breaks with the traditions of modern Arabic fiction, creating a work that has been and will continue to be hailed across literatures. Here every ordinary word, ordinary action is a small stone dropped into water: of inevitable consequence. We find ourselves mesmerized one quiet ripple at a time.
A prismatic novel, a play of angles and mirrors where a strange yet familiar world is made vivid by small light touches. Powerful, beautiful and revealing.
Translated into English by Paula Haydar
'How often do we encounter a novelist whose writing is alchemic – whose heartrending eye for beauty seems to cause our perceptions of the world to change their substance? … Shibli has created a world of both extraordinary lightness and devastating intensity.’ Time Out Beirut
'The most talked about writer on the West Bank.' Ahdaf Soueif
'The opening of her first novel, Masaas (Touch)… introduces a fragile little girl, standing alone in her landscape, in the shadow of an old, rusty water tank. She touches one of the supporting legs of the tank, and tiny, cold stains of rust stick to her palm. She stretches her hand out of the shade to warm it up in the sun, and her hand becomes sprinkled with shiny dots of shimmering gold. This is, to my mind, what Adania Shibli does with her amazingly and beguilingly simple language: making the rusty stains of reality disappear, and then making them reappear in writing as stains of gold.' Anton Shammas, Words Without Borders
'...An exquisite, powerful novella…In spare prose, Shibli follows an unnamed little girl, the youngest in a large Palestinian family, as she examines her world and tries to understand her place in it...Shibli takes readers to the center of a family and a culture, using the same careful, dispassionate observation to report everyday events like the father's shaving as she does to depict the death of a sibling in area violence. Like a great volume of poetry, Shibli's first novel has rhythm and unexpected momentum, and cries for re-reading.' Starred review, Publishers Weekly
'One of the most exciting voices in Arabic literature.' PEN Atlas blog
'Shibli is widely recognized as an innovative writer who is breaking literary tradition in her native Arabic, and it is no small feat that the English translation of Touch is strikingly innovative as well.... Whatever it is—a dream, memory fragments, poems folded into sun and grass—Touch is both remarkable and difficult, beautifully lucid and yet also mysterious... This is not a book to be shelved once finished. It calls to you softly, insistently, until you pick it up again and allow yourself to be tugged back in, seeking truth. The Russian writer Anton Chekhov famously said a story should not answer questions but pose them, and perhaps this is what Touch can be called, a question, rather than a novel—that place from where all searches begin.'
Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Electronic Intifada
'Shibli writes nonjudgmentally, in a gripping, universal voice, about everyday lives and disappointments. Her triumph is an inspiration.' Laila Lalami
'The original title of the beautiful book by Adania Shibli in Arabic sounds like “Masas,” an untranslatable term that means “touch the soul.” And a touch, or better, a profound interior feeling, envelops this story set in a Palestinian village, beautiful like certain places that are full of sun and light. It is the story of a female child looking for an opening through which to enter the world of the others.' Il Manifesto
'Touch centers on a girl, the youngest of nine sisters in a Palestinian family. In the singular world of this novella, this young woman’s everyday experiences—watching a funeral procession, fighting with her siblings, learning to read, perhaps falling in love—resonate until they have become as weighty as any national tragedy. The smallest sensations compel, the events of history only lurk at the edges—the question of Palestine, the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. In a language that feels at once natural and alienated, Shibli breaks with the traditions of modern Arabic fiction, creating a work that has been and will continue to be hailed across literatures. Here every ordinary word, ordinary action is a small stone dropped into water: of inevitable consequence. We find ourselves mesmerized one quiet ripple at a time.' Akeela Gaibie-Dawood, Belletrista
'There is much richness and beauty contained in this very short book. Shibli has an exquisite grasp of language that allows her to say a vast amount without writing much at all. Her words are precise and telling. Touch is so well crafted that the reader feels like part of the narrative, present and active in the world the author describes. She is a great talent. ...With her excellent use of language and her rich palette of images and emotional responses, Shibli has emerged as a strong new voice in Arabic literature. Her writing is nonjudgmental; she gives the reader the facts and lets them make their own judgments. Her perspective is that of the reporter, minus the sensationalism...In Touch, Shibli has created a wonderful exposition of daily Palestinian life...Yes, we all live a little differently in different parts of the world, but this work reminds us that there is more that makes us the same than there is that makes us different. In this sense Touch is a triumph.' The New York Journal of Books
'Sometimes the task of an author—particularly one who writes about a hyper-symbolized terrain—is to un-narrativize, to pull things back apart. Adania Shibli is up to this task. Touch brings us the fragmented worldview of a narrator at the cusp of understanding her world....This is not the story an adult would tell about her childhood. Instead, Shibli breaks the story down into its component, sensory parts. It’s the narrator’s attempt to see colors, to hear sounds, and to take hold of her own thoughts that are given center stage...Shibli certainly has found new and affecting ways of structuring the experience of dislocation and violence, and her prose—even through the lens of translation—startles the reader into re-imagining the familiar.' M. Lynx Qualey, Rain Taxi
'Touch purrs along like an extended prose poem—all words and sounds and images—as Shibli picks up the glinting fragments of the girl’s experience, then turns them over in her hand to see how they refract the light of a world so radically constricted and reduced....slim but dazzlingly potent...a quizzically brilliant piece of writing that begins with the five senses, and builds up a precarious plot from there...At some point, she hears the words Sabra and Shatila. At another point, after a classmate is flogged at school, she learns that the word Palestine is forbidden. As far as sociopolitical context goes, that is about all there is. But in Shibli’s spare prose, there is so much more besides.' The National
'When you live in a persistent war-zone, every day is a new challenge. Touch is a novella following a young girl in modern Palestine, as she faces life's challenges as the world continues to rage on around her. From the simple processes of life to the constant tragedies, Touch proves to be a fascinating and insightful novella, not to be missed.' Midwest Book Review
Clockroot Books/Interlink Publishing US
Actes Sud France
Modrijan Zalozba Slovenia
Material: Arabic edition; PDF of English translation; French and Italian editions