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Palestine Festival of Literature

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PalFest is an annual event that aims to bring a cultural festival of international standard to audiences in Palestine to assert "the power of culture over the culture of power." In recognition of how restricted movement is for Palestinians the Festival travels throughout Palestine, staging events in several cities.

Patrons of the Festival include Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe
Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe popularly known as Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic...

, John Berger
John Berger
John Peter Berger is an English art critic, novelist, painter and author. His novel G. won the 1972 Booker Prize, and his essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a BBC series, is often used as a university text.-Education:Born in Hackney, London, England, Berger was...

, Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet...

, Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

, Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE was a Nobel Prize–winning English playwright and screenwriter. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party , The Homecoming , and Betrayal , each of which he adapted to...

, Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman CBE, FRSL is an English writer from Norwich. He is the best-selling author of several books, most notably his trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials, and his fictionalised biography of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ...

 and Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson is a British actress, comedian and screenwriter. Her first major film role was in the 1989 romantic comedy The Tall Guy. In 1992, Thompson won multiple acting awards, including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress, for her performance in the British drama Howards End...

. It is supported by the British Council
British Council
The British Council is a United Kingdom-based organisation specialising in international educational and cultural opportunities. It is registered as a charity both in England and Wales, and in Scotland...

, the Open Society, the A M Qattan Foundation and Riwaq among others.

Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif is an Anglo-Egyptian novelist and political and cultural commentator.-Life and career:Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England...

 is the founding chair. The Founding Board are Victoria Brittain, Alison Elliot
Alison Elliot
Alison Elliot OBE is the Associate Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2004 she became the first woman ever to be elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland...

, Brigid Keenan
Brigid Keenan
Brigid Keenan is an author and journalist. She has worked as an editor on Nova magazine, The Observer and The Sunday Times. On marriage to a diplomat she re-orientated her career into writing books and, whilst travelling the world with her husband, has published two fashion histories as well as...

, John Horner (Treasurer) and Sheila Whitaker.

Inaugural Festival


Between 7 and 11 May 2008 the festival traveled to the cities of Jerusalem, Ramallah
Ramallah
Ramallah is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank located 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem, adjacent to al-Bireh. It currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority...

 and Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

 - while the authors also visited Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

. The venues included: Dar al-Tifl (Jerusalem), Al-Kasaba Theatre
Al-Kasaba Theatre
Al-Kasaba Theatre is a cinema in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank. It was established in 1970 for playwrights and eventually began presenting films. Al-Kasaba is the only official multipurpose cinema in the Palestinian territories.-History:...

 (Ramallah), Dar Annadwa (Bethlehem) and the Palestine National Theater (Jerusalem) - all of which sold out. The format generally took on a series of a readings followed by discussions and questions from the audience.

The authors were also joined by Palestinian performers. In Bethlehem, El Funoun Dance Troupe performed a series of their dances and on the final night in Jerusalem, Yasmeen, from The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is a Palestinian music conservatory with branches in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. In total, there are more than 500 students. It was established in 1993 as The National Conservatory of Music, with its first branch, in Ramallah, opening in...

, played. What was meant to be a sextet "turned into a quartet because the lute player and the percussionist were refused entry to the city".

The festival also ran workshops with students at Bir Zeit University and Bethlehem University
Bethlehem University
Bethlehem University is the first university founded in the West Bank, Palestine. Bethlehem University traces its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt....

. Students were given a list of the attending authors and asked to come up with their own workshop titles.

The 16 artists in attendance of the 2008 festival were: Khalid Abdalla
Khalid Abdalla
Khalid Abdalla is a Egyptian-British actor. He came to international prominence after starring in the 2006 Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA-winning film, United 93. Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, it chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked as part of the...

, Daniel Alarcon
Daniel Alarcón
Daniel Alarcón is an author who lives in Oakland, California; he has been a the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College and a Visiting Writer at California College of the Arts...

, Mourid Barghouti
Mourid Barghouti
Mourid Barghouti or Mureed Barghouti or Murid Barguti or Murid Barghuti is a Palestinian poet and writer....

, Victoria Brittain, William Dalrymple, Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. Several of his books have been made into successful films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. He won the Booker Prize in 1993....

, Esther Freud
Esther Freud
Esther Freud is a British novelist.-Life and career:Born in London, Freud is the daughter of painter Lucian Freud and Bernadine Coverley and is a great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. She travelled extensively with her mother as a child, and returned to London at the age of sixteen to train as an...

, Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal is a French-American poet and playwright of Palestinian origin. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world.-Biography:...

, Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist. She was born in Amman, Jordan. Her parents were Palestinian refugees who immigrated along with their daughter to Brooklyn, New York City when she was five years old...

, Ian Jack
Ian Jack
Ian Jack is a Scottish journalist who was the editor of the literary magazine Granta from 1995 to 2007. Granta 98 "The Deep End" was the 48th issue which Jack edited and the last.Jack was educated at Dunfermline High School...

, Brigid Keenan
Brigid Keenan
Brigid Keenan is an author and journalist. She has worked as an editor on Nova magazine, The Observer and The Sunday Times. On marriage to a diplomat she re-orientated her career into writing books and, whilst travelling the world with her husband, has published two fashion histories as well as...

, Jamal Mahjoub, Pankaj Mishra
Pankaj Mishra
Pankaj Mishra born 1969 in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh , is an Indian essayist and novelist. He is particularly notable for his book Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, a sociological study of small-town India, and his writing for the New York Review of Books.He graduated with a bachelor's degree in commerce...

, Andrew O'Hagan
Andrew O'Hagan
Andrew O'Hagan, FRSL is a Scottish novelist and non-fiction author. He is also an Editor at Large of Esquire and is currently a creative writing fellow at King's College London. He was selected by for inclusion in their 2003 list of the top 20 young British novelists. His novels appear...

, Hanan al-Shaykh
Hanan al-Shaykh
Hanan al-Shaykh is a Lebanese author of contemporary Arab women's literature.- Biography :Hanan al-Shaykh's family background is that of a strict Shi'a...

, Raja Shehadeh
Raja Shehadeh
Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer and writer who lives in Ramallah, West Bank.-Biography:Raja Shehadeh studied law in London. His grandfather, Saleem, was a judge in the courts of the British Mandate of Palestine...

, and Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif is an Anglo-Egyptian novelist and political and cultural commentator.-Life and career:Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England...

.

On returning to the UK, Ahdaf Soueif wrote that the festival "was an enlightening experience - but not always for the right reasons".

2009 Festival


The 2009 festival toured to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jenin, Hebron and Ramallah over six days. The artists involved were: Suad Amiry
Suad Amiry
Suad Amiry is an author and architect living in the West Bank town of Ramallah. She studied architecture at the American University of Beirut, the University of Michigan, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her parents went from Palestine to Amman, Jordan. She was brought up there and went...

, Victoria Brittain, Carmen Callil
Carmen Callil
Carmen Thérèse Callil is a publisher, writer and critic. She founded Virago Press in 1973.-Life:Callil was born in Melbourne Australia, but has lived in London since 1960. Her mother Lorraine Clare Allen, widowed in her early forties, raised four children of whom Carmen was the third...

, Abdulrazak Gurnah
Abdulrazak Gurnah
Abdulrazak Gurnah is a Tanzanian novelist based in the United Kingdom.- Career :From 1980 to 1982, Gurnah lectured at the Bayero University Kano in Nigeria. He then moved to the University of Kent, where he earned his PhD in 1982...

, Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist. She was born in Amman, Jordan. Her parents were Palestinian refugees who immigrated along with their daughter to Brooklyn, New York City when she was five years old...

, Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal is a French-American poet and playwright of Palestinian origin. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world.-Biography:...

, Jeremy Harding, Rachel Holmes, Robin Yassin-Kassab, Brigid Keenan, Jamal Mahjoub, Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell is a Swedish crime writer, children's author, leftist activist and dramatist, best known for a series of mystery novels starring his most famous creation, Inspector Kurt Wallander.-Life and career:...

 (accompanied by his wife, Eva Bergman
Eva Bergman
Eva Bergman is a Swedish director of film, theatre and television, who currently works at Dramaten.She is the daughter of fellow Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, and has been married to the crime writer Henning Mankell since 1998.-Filmography:*En Midsommarnattsdröm *Trappen *One Love and the Other...

), Deborah Moggach
Deborah Moggach
Deborah Moggach is an English writer. She has written sixteen novels to date, including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, and, most recently, These Foolish Things. She has adapted many of her novels as TV dramas and has also written several film scripts, including the BAFTA-nominated screenplay for Pride...

, Claire Messud
Claire Messud
Claire Messud is an American novelist. She is best known as the author of the 2006 novel The Emperor's Children.-Early life:...

, Michael Palin
Michael Palin
Michael Edward Palin, CBE FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries....

, Alexandra Pringle, Pru Rowlandson, Raja Shehadeh
Raja Shehadeh
Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer and writer who lives in Ramallah, West Bank.-Biography:Raja Shehadeh studied law in London. His grandfather, Saleem, was a judge in the courts of the British Mandate of Palestine...

, Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif is an Anglo-Egyptian novelist and political and cultural commentator.-Life and career:Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England...

 and M G Vassanji.

On both the opening and closing nights attempts were made by the Israeli police, acting on court order, to prevent the festival from taking place, since the Palestinian Authority was involved. Both times the festival relocated: to the French Cultural Institute on the first night and to the British Council on the last. Outside of Jerusalem, events and workshops were held in Jenin, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah.

PalFest continues its work throughout the year, running extended writing workshops and videocast seminars wherever possible.

2010 Festival


The 2010 Festival took place from May 1 to 6, with events in Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah.

Participants included: Susan Abulhawa
Susan Abulhawa
Susan Abulhawa is an American-based author of Palestinian descent. She is the author of the 2010 novel, Mornings in Jenin.-Background:Abulhawa is the daughter of Palestinian refugees of the 1967 War. She grew up in Kuwait, Jordan, occupied East Jerusalem, and the United States...

, Taha Muhammad Ali
Taha Muhammad Ali
Taha Muhammad Ali was a Palestinian poet.-Biography:Taha Muhammad Ali fled to Lebanon with his family when he was seventeen after their village came under heavy bombardment during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The following year, he returned to Nazareth, where he lived till his death...

, Suad Amiry
Suad Amiry
Suad Amiry is an author and architect living in the West Bank town of Ramallah. She studied architecture at the American University of Beirut, the University of Michigan, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her parents went from Palestine to Amman, Jordan. She was brought up there and went...

, Geoff Dyer
Geoff Dyer
Geoff Dyer is a British author and novelist. He is also a journalist who writes about a wide range of topics. His published work includes four novels and several books of non-fiction, which have won a number of literary awards...

, Adam Foulds
Adam Foulds
Adam Foulds is a British novelist and poet.-Biography:Foulds was educated at Bancroft's School, read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford under Craig Raine, and graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in 2001. Foulds published The Truth About These Strange...

, Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist. She was born in Amman, Jordan. Her parents were Palestinian refugees who immigrated along with their daughter to Brooklyn, New York City when she was five years old...

, Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal is a French-American poet and playwright of Palestinian origin. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world.-Biography:...

, Remi Kanazi
Remi Kanazi
Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian-American performance poet and human rights activist based in New York City. He has edited a volume of hip hop, poetry and art, Poets for Palestine , and published the first collection of his own poetry, Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine, in 2011...

, Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell is a Swedish crime writer, children's author, leftist activist and dramatist, best known for a series of mystery novels starring his most famous creation, Inspector Kurt Wallander.-Life and career:...

, Raja Shehadeh
Raja Shehadeh
Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer and writer who lives in Ramallah, West Bank.-Biography:Raja Shehadeh studied law in London. His grandfather, Saleem, was a judge in the courts of the British Mandate of Palestine...

, Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif is an Anglo-Egyptian novelist and political and cultural commentator.-Life and career:Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England...

, William Sutcliffe
William Sutcliffe
William Sutcliffe is a British novelist.An alumnus of Haberdashers' Aske's School, Sutcliffe started his career with a novel about school life entitled New Boy , which was followed by his best-known work so far, Are You Experienced? , a pre-university gap year novel, in which a group of young...

, members of Wildworks
Wildworks
Wildworks is an international site-specific theatre company based in Cornwall, England.They specialise in large-scale outdoor promenade performances.They were formed in 2005 by Bill Mitchell initially growing out of Kneehigh Theatre Company....

 theatre company - and many more.

An offshoot of the Festival has been the formation of the Palestine Writing Workshop - a series of extended creative writing courses run with small groups of students. To date, five week-long courses have been taught on topics ranging from spoken word poetry to creative non-fiction.

In October 2010 the first of PalFest's literary internships was launched: a young graduate from Hebron spent six weeks working at Bloomsbury Publishing in London, while two others were hosted by the Southbank Centre to work on their flagship poetry festival, Poetry International.

.

External links