Palestinian history as shocking collage

February 2007 -

coverGate of the Sun, published in Beirut in 1998 and awarded the Palestine Award the same year, is considered in the Arabic world as an outstanding work which reconstructs and copes with contemporary Palestinian history for the first time. This novel, which is constructed from both historical facts and fictional elements, is a document of contemporary history as well as an exciting story.

Following classic Arabic storytelling traditions, Elias Khoury, who is one of the best known Lebanese authors, develops numerous entwined story lines. This mosaic of stories is kept together by a frame story which paints a shattering picture of contemporary Palestinian reality:

For months resistance fighter Yunus has been in a coma in a hospital destroyed by war in the Palestinian refugee camp Shatila in Beirut. The nurse Khalil, who acts as a first-person narrator, attempts to bring his friend of years back into consciousness. Since there are neither doctors nor medicine in the desolate hospital, he turns to storytelling as a therapy against death. He tirelessly addresses the comatose patient, evokes his life and love affairs and keeps him up to date with the latest news from the refugee camp.

This novel, which is based on elaborate research in Palestinian refugee camps, resembles a collage of the latest Palestinian history, which goes back to the thirties of the 20th century. It is, as is shown by the war events in July and August 2006, more than ever an explosive work of great topical value. With a strong political overtone by its theme, the conflict in the middle east, but devoid of any polemic or finger pointing, this novel testifies of a large degree of critical self-reflection. Its force lies in shedding its light before all else on the inner experience and the individual aspects of life within this conflict.

As proven by the many translations in numerous European languages and even Hebrew, attention for this novel stretches out far beyond the Arabic world. It was also made into a film by Egyptian director Yousri Nasrallah in a co production by Ognon Pictures and Arte France and broadcasted by Arte in 2004.