cover image We Are All Equally Far from Love

We Are All Equally Far from Love

Adania Shibli, trans. from the Arabic by Paul Starkey. Interlink/Clockroot, $15 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-56656-863-0

Palestinian author Shibli’s poetic yet precise language and nimble characterizations partially make up for a sludge of undifferentiated melancholy in this series of interrelated vignettes set in her native land. In the course of her work, an increasingly isolated woman writes letters to a man she’s never met that go from professional to personal; “I wanted to offer him the essence of my existence,” she says. Intimate correspondence also informs “The First Measure,” the teenager Afaf, who leaves school to work in the post office for her father, reading, and sometimes altering people’s letters (changing “Palestine” to “Israel” among other edits). A married woman falls in love with the physiotherapist she visits for treatment and finds her new feelings overwhelming her conservative life. A woman’s devotion to physical fitness fails to ameliorate her increasing horror and disgust with the world around her. A shy man who has failed in his university studies and works in a supermarket looks longingly at a woman on a public bench and thinks of the few women he has known. Shibli (Touch) writes beautifully piece to piece, but fails to achieve much of a cumulative effect; readers will do better to dip in and out of this collection rather than consume it whole. Agent: The Susijn Agency Ltd. (Jan.)