Minor Detail by Adania Shibli: While we watched

Sayantan Ghosh
Sayantan GhoshNov 03, 2023 | 17:30

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli: While we watched

Last month, several visual artists, writers, and publishers released statements of solidarity with Palestinian author Adania Shibli, after a ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair at which Shibli was to receive a prestigious award was called off in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel.

Shibli’s publisher Fitzcarraldo which had brought out the English translation of her book, Minor Detail – translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette – criticized the decision and as a display of support made the e-book of the novel available for free download during the duration of the Fair.


Thousands of readers around the world since then have read and showered praise on the book, and this week’s column is an urge to anyone who condemns the monumental devastation we’ve witnessed in Gaza in these past few weeks, and is yet to come across Minor Detail, to seek it out.

Photo: The Booker Prizes

In 1949, a year after the creation of the state of Israel, a young Arab woman is captured, kept captive, raped, and eventually murdered by Israeli soldiers in the Negev desert, and Shibli recounts each gruesome moment of this act with precision and unsparing coldness. The author’s craft is so sophisticated throughout that as you turn the pages, you’ll be able to feel the fear, pain, and helplessness of the situation in your bones on more than one occasion.

Minor Detail is split into two parts – the first featuring the events surrounding the rape and killing of the Bedouin girl with only her dog by her side as the sole witness of the crime, and the second told in the voice of a Palestinian woman living in Ramallah in the present day who reads about the earlier incident and obsessively attempts to trace back when she realizes that it had taken place exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born.


Upon its release in 2020, Shibli’s third novel was nominated for a National Book Award and longlisted for the International Booker Prize. Above all else, this book is about erasure and remembering. As we live to see another day of the deadly violence in Gaza, the least we can do from afar is to not allow ourselves to ever forget these people and what had happened to them while the world watched.

Last updated: November 03, 2023 | 17:54
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