Isabella Hammad Tackles ‘Hamlet And Politics In Her Clever New Novel

Isabella Hammad Tackles ‘Hamlet And Politics In Her Clever New Novel

Isabella Hammad's second novel, Entering the Ghost, opens, as the title suggests, with an essay. London-based Palestinian actress Sonia Nasser got through security at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport more easily than she expected with a quick strip search.

© Grove

He travels to Haifa for the first time since childhood, heartbroken and wanting to confide in his older sister. However, due to the strained relationship between the siblings, Sonia lives in the apartment almost immediately, unsure if she will be welcome inside and brooding over the discovery that their uncle has sold his family home to an Israeli buyer and moved out. . When Mary's close friend turns up and reveals that he needs Queen Gertrude to produce Hamlet on the West Coast, Sonia gets involved. As he begins to confront his complicated guilt over his political life in England, a production of Hamlet thrusts him into the epicenter of political tension in the region, culminating in a production of Bethlehem.

Hamlet plays a central role in the novel in several ways. The title "The Entry of the Ghosts" is from William Shakespeare's play, when the ghost of King Hamlet orders his son to seek justice for their corrupt kingdom. The novel's plot is filled with such conflicts—between lovers, family members, and Israelis "in" and "outside" the West Bank—and presents a ghostly third mode that Hammad describes through the central motif of intersections between the two worlds. Sonia brings her transitional role to life with the keen sense of nuance of a seasoned storyteller and actor. Her body is often the subject of detailed descriptions of intimacy and freedom—her struggles with lovers, pregnancy, and misogyny intertwine with the struggles spread throughout the novel.

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Hammad is a rigorous scholar, and in The Ghost's Entry he provides a compelling and straightforward account of the contemporary Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The story takes place in 2017 amid tensions in the wake of the real-life shooting and killing of two Israeli policemen on what Muslims call the Holy of Holies and Jews call the Temple Mount, and the resulting civil unrest that relentlessly surrounds the novel's plot. . But don't keep it. than her. When the actors try to rehearse Shakespeare in classical Arabic on their lavish outdoor stage near the separation wall in Bethlehem, the Israeli government cowers, restricts funding and allows its army to interfere with the project.

The "Parisian" Isabella Hammad takes us to the brink of unrest in the Ottoman Empire.

Fiction has an uneasy relationship with politics, and American writers in particular tend to shy away from the Palestinian issue, an issue the text describes as "largely tone-deaf and group preaching." It's a hurdle that Hammad overcame in his 2019 debut in Le Parisien (on the British mandate in Palestine), which makes him a writer with an odd mix of skills. He can simultaneously trace vast social and historical fields without losing his sense of detail, which gives a surgical precision to his writings on man. His style is often described as "polished". These skills connected him with postcolonial writers such as Ahdaf Soueif and Abraham Varghese. Like In the Eye of the Sun and Cut to Stone, Le Parisien is nearly 600 pages long. But thanks to Hammadi's adaptation of the Western drama, something different and smarter is happening with The Phantom.

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The writer, Isabella Hammad, is a meticulous researcher. © Elizabeth Van Loon Author Isabella Hammad is a rigorous researcher.

The structure of the plot is built around the main activities of a theater production: acting, rehearsals and acting, as well as parallel drama between the actors. From this relatively simple setting, similarities between Hamlet and the novel emerge through themes such as betrayal, the drama within a drama, the divided family, and turmoil in the kingdom. However, you don't have to be a Shakespeare fan to enjoy this re-imagined classic Miriam and her team candidly discuss the play's resilience in its West Coast setting. The novel is aware of its fourth wall but doesn't feel shy, and the written format is sometimes unpredictable and exciting. It also manages to rise beyond concrete ekphrasis to a broader reflection of the exchange between the artwork and its context. As tens of thousands of Muslims, including the atheist Sonia, gather to protest security measures at the Haram al-Sharif, praying in the streets, Sonia believes: “We should have protested the show, but we didn't need to play the protest. .

The central theatrical ideas of catharsis, audience, comedy, and tragedy (expressed as absurdity) explain what it means for Sonya to be truly involved in something that seems bigger than herself. In a brief but memorably funny scene, the novel tries to get to the bottom of what Israel represents to its soldiers when Sonya encounters a British Israeli teenager manning a checkpoint. His English temperament took him from an IDF soldier "protecting his people" to a teenager defending himself against Manchester charges. Mixed identities are everywhere, as are everyday presentations, and add a new dimension that defies easy categorization.

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Although Enter Ghost sometimes seems preoccupied with its own morality, such as its focus on the Palestinians, when other conflicts like Yemen are vying for international attention, it thrives on such a rare fantasy project that it holds the attention of some viewers. Or, in Hamlet's words, "a play by which I know the king's conscience."

Sarah Cypher is a freelance editor and author of Skin and Her Girl , which comes out this month

Enter the ghost

Isabelle Hamad

Al Bustan Press. 336 p. 28 dollars

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