I Was Born There, I Was Born Here
Author: Mourid Barghouti
Translator: Humphrey Davies
Original language: Arabic
Published by: Bloomsbury, 2011
In 2000 Mourid Barghouti published I Saw Ramallah, the acclaimed memoir that told of returning in 1996 to his Palestinian home for the first time since exile following the Six-Day War in 1967. I Was Born There, I Was Born Here takes up the story in 1998 when Barghouti returned to the Occupied Territories to introduce his Cairo-born son, Tamim, to his Palestinian family. Ironically, a few years later Tamim had himself been arrested for taking part in a demonstration against the impending Iraq War. He was held in the very same Cairo prison from which his father had been expelled from Egypt to begin a second exile in Budapest when Tamim was only a few months old.
Ranging freely back and forth in time between the 1990s and the present day, Barghouti weaves into his account of exile poignant evocations of Palestinian history and daily life – the pleasure of coffee arriving at just the right moment, the challenge of a car journey through the Occupied Territories, the meaning of home and the importance of being able to say, standing in a small village in Palestine, ‘I was born here’, rather than saying from exile, ‘I was born there’.
Full of life and humour in the face of a culture of death, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here is destined, like its predecessor, to become a classic.