Defamiliarizing the Familiar and Moving the Immovable: Exile, Return, and the Journey in Ḥussein Barghoutī’s The Blue Light, and I Will Be Among the Almond Trees

    • Presentation speakers
      • Haneen Omari, Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands


    The two dimensions of spatiality and temporality play a focal role in modern Palestinian literature: many poems, stories and novels revolve around what Palestine, as a land, became to mean to the Palestinian individual and community. This paper aims to show how the modern Palestinian author, Ḥussein Barghoutī, provides new definitions of the notions of exile, return, and journey that go beyond their traditional definitions in the Palestinian literary context. The focus will be on Barghoutī’s two autobiographical works The Blue Light, and I Will Be Among the Almond Trees, which will be read in tandem with some of his critical and theoretical notions. Through the invocation of concepts like the embroidered time, defamiliarization, and movement, Barghoutī provides a look on the interplay between the past and the present, and the ways in which the individual’s identity is moulded in relation to society, place, and time. Barghoutī’s aim is to highlight that political, social, and historical aspects should not be perceived as controlling factors that define the identity of Palestinian literature and life but rather as elements that contribute to the fluidity and changeability of this multi-dimensional identity. Thus, instead of saying that Barghoutī writes outside the canon of modern Palestinian literature, it will be argued that Barghoutī’s work widens the body of Palestinian literature and offers new insights about Palestinian life and identity.