My First and Only Love by Sahar Khalifeh, translated by Aida Bamia (Hoopoe, April 2021)
Nidal, after many decades of restless exile, returns to her family home in Nablus, where she had lived with her grandmother before the 1948 Nakba that scattered her family across the globe. She was a young girl when the popular resistance began and, through the bloodshed and bitter struggle, Nidal fell in love with freedom fighter Rabie. He was her first and only real love―him and all that he represented: Palestine in its youth, the resistance fighters in the hills, the nation as embodied in her family home and in the land.
Many years later, Nidal and Rabie meet, and he encourages her to read her uncle Amin’s memoirs. She immerses herself in the details of her family and national past and discovers the secret history of her absent mother.
Filled with emotional urgency and political immediacy, Sahar Khalifeh spins an epic tale reaching from the final days of the British Mandate to today with clear-eyed realism and great imagination.
Sahar Khalifeh, born in Nablus in 1941, is an acclaimed Palestinian author. She is hailed as a feminist writer and has written eleven novels, which have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and many other languages. She has won numerous international prizes, including the Naguib Mahfouz for Literature for The Image, the Icon, and the Covenant. She lives in Jordan.
“[A] novel that removes the reader from a world dominated by ideology and partisan stances, into a lauding of heroism and human bravery; it sings the praises of the championship of ordinary citizens, especially during times of prevailing frustration. The story remains optimistic, in its content and its national and humanitarian mission . . . Khalifeh’s narrative style is sensitive, thrifty, and transparent . . . Well done!”―Asymptote
“Khalifeh transcends the local struggles of the Palestinian protagonists to the more universal . . . If there is an Arabic novelist who deserves the Nobel Prize, after Naguib Mahfouz, it is Sahar Khalifeh…I highly recommend.”―World Literature Today
“Khalifeh is a first-class story-teller and, whatever your views on the political situation, she tells a first-class, albeit poignant story on love and loss in a period of war and oppression.”―The Modern Novel
“[The] writing is political and artistic. Political in the sense that it deals with national politics and sexual politics. At the same time, it is full of humane characters and enjoys a high amount of humor . . . meaningful and beautiful”―Middle East Monitor
“The best Arab woman novelist in the twentieth century.”―Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban
“Sahar Khalifeh is the Virginia Woolf of Palestinian literature.”―Börsenblatt
“Khalifeh is simply the greatest Palestinian novelist and one of the world’s greatest historical novelists, ranking with Naguib Mahfouz, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and Pramoedya Ananta Toer.”―James Holstun, Professor of English, University at Buffalo
“Khalifeh effectively paints a crazy world where individuals seek to lead normal lives under nightmarish conditions . . . .Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal
“In Khalifeh’s book, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Jewish immigrants, and British colonial leaders are all treated with equal sympathy”―Women’s Review of Books
“Incisively explores individual lives―particularly women’s lives―in the years just before 1948.”―Marcia Lynx Qualey, Arabic Literature
“The author invokes a sacred heritage that remains at once vital and powerful.”―Dr. Abdel Moneim Tallima