Neighborhoods: Mahmoud Shukair’s “Jerusalem Stands Alone”

This episode features segments from the book Jerusalem Stands Alone by Mahmoud Shukair, a collection of tales narrated in a series of stand-alone observations, usually no more than a single page, and often simply a paragraph, so that they resemble, in a way, the tenants of a house or the apartments of a neighborhood. Nicole Fares has translated it from the Arabic.
Mahmoud Shukair was born in 1941 in Jerusalem and worked for many years as a teacher, journalist and editor-in-chief of the cultural magazines Al-Talia’a (The Vanguard) and Dafatir Thaqafiya (Cultural File). He was jailed twice by the Israeli authorities for his political remarks, and was deported to Lebanon in 1975, not returning to Jerusalem until 1993. He is the author of 45 books, six television series, and four plays, including Mordechai’s Moustache and His Wife’s Cats. In 2011, he was awarded the Mahmoud Darwish Prize for Freedom of Expression. He has spent his life between Beirut, Amman, and Prague and now lives in Jerusalem.



Here is an excerpt from “Neighbors”:
Her name is Suzanne. She’s a thin blonde from Marseille who rented a room in the Old City, where she shares a bathroom with her neighbors, a bathroom she uses once in the morning and again around midnight.
Her window overlooks a house occupied by five settlers who appear on the porch every morning. She can see the top of the pale yellow wall not far from the house. (Suzanne loved this city from the moment she arrived last years.)

Text: Jerusalem Stands Alone by Mahmoud Shukair. Translated from the Arabic by Nicole Fares. Syracuse University Press, 2018.

Photo by Johanna Geron/FLASH90: A Palestinian man walks by an Orthodox Jewish woman in East Jerusalem.

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