New Statesman

All part of the process

“We are a Palestinian and an Israeli who met in the early euphoric days of treaty-signing and a peace process,” Ibrahim, a former refugee living in London, observes in a letter to his girlfriend Ruth. It’s now 2000, the Camp David peace talks have failed, and as Ibrahim reflects on the couple’s years together he sourly remembers when “neither of us seemed to be burdened by an awareness that we belonged to opposite sides”.

Over time, the awareness grows. The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin is the catalyst for Ibrahim suggesting that Ruth move in with him. Later the associations become more elliptical: “first there were more suicide bombings then she stopped sleeping with me”. Finally, the relationship collapses because of the impact the Middle East conflict has had on Ibrahim, who is still reeling years after his cousin’s “disappearance” and the death of his militant brother.

More mundane details of a dysfunctional relationship keep the overarching metaphor from becoming heavy-handed. But at the core of this elegant, angry novel is the impossibility of disentangling the personal from the political for a couple “too late to be unprecedented . . . too early to become just another relationship between two people from two different backgrounds”.

Alyssa McDonald
© New Statesman 2008