What if refugees told their own stories? The Last Earth by Ramzy Baroud

The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story is a narrative-non-fictional story of modern Palestinian history. It comprises the stories of complex characters whose accounts overlap in terms of the collective experience. In it, I attempt to offer an authentic Palestinian narrative, one that does not only challenge the Zionist discourse – ever violent, dismissive and undeniably racist—but also contests some of the existing narratives that purport to be speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people.

I believe that no one is more qualified to speak for Palestinians, but Palestinians themselves, especially the refugees amongst them – those who have paid the heaviest price for Israeli atrocities, and whose collective identity is shaped by seven decades of a relentless fight for freedom.

When each of the book’s chapters is read individually, it presents a compelling personal story that signifies the experience of an entire generation. When read as a whole, the book tells the story of a people, whose history is not as simple as a historical timeline of conflict, but rather that of intricate human emotions—hopes, dreams, struggles and priorities that seem to pay no heed to politics, military balances or ideological rivalries.

But while it sheds light on the past, The Last Earth is a serious attempt at bringing ordinary people to be active participants in shaping the present and the future. Writing the book involved a number of Palestinian researchers and hundreds of discussions and interviews with Palestinian refugees in Palestine and throughout the world.

 The nine chapters of this book contain complex characters whose stories overlap, creating echo after resounding echo of their profound collective experience.

 To provide a more vivid rendition of emotive personal histories, I have intentionally taken on the personality of each individual story-teller, internalized (as much as it was possible) and re-told their stories in a way that aims to respect the dignity of each narrative, while bearing in mind the receptivity of the readers and their ability to engage with the text.

The final product is closer to the stories of Rosemary Sayigh and Salam Tamari’s documenting of people’s history than to that of the typical narration of Palestine —subject to redundant political language and historical references devoid of the emotive human sentiment. At times, the narration style may seem somewhat similar to the work of Ghassan Kanafani, Ibrahim Nasrallah, and Abdulrahman Munif, where reality and fiction merge to form a whole new category of literature. 

  However, these stories with all of their characters and details, are true. What may, at times, read as a form of magic realism (for example, ‘Spirits of the Orchard’) is, in fact, a reflection of the strong belief held by some of the characters, who truly believed – or needed to trust in – the supernatural and the miraculous.

  Unsurprisingly, the narratives overlapped on many occasions. Even if the storytellers have never met, they were essentially describing the same events, from a different perspective, location or time frame.

 Finally, this book is a choral, a passionate tribute to all of the Palestinians who shared their stories and trusted me with the most intimate details of their lives.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.  

Ramzy Baroud will be in Olympia at Traditions Fair Trade, 7 pm, Tuesday, February 20, 2018.
He will present passages from his book and discuss the occupation of Palestine with fresh updates, and analysis covering related politics.
The public is encouraged to come.