Elias Khoury's novel Bab el Shams (Gate of the Sun), which came out in 1998 symbolically marking fifty years to the Palestinian Nakba, is perhaps the most comprehensive narrative of this ongoing event. This fascinating novel has not yet received the scholarly attention it deserves. My suggested reading of the novel is inspired by and juxtaposed with Holocaust literature and what might be called Holocaust related critical theory. This reading, I contend, is invited by the novel itself and is pursued from the perspective of a Jewish Israeli Holocaust and trauma scholar. The main argument of this essay is that the novel deals with the unsettling conjuncture of the extremely destabilizing, traumatized and decentred testimony of the Palestinian victim-witness and the essential, collective Palestinian national epos that frames these individual traumatized narratives. The former inevitably undermines the latter while, at the same time, the latter collectively frames the former. These tensions, integrations and disintegrations form the core theme of Gate of the Sun. To put it differently, I contend that this novel is about the unsettling paradoxes of writing a polyphonic non-monolithic decentralized collective epos. This narrative of collective and individual traumas manages to unsettle old national structures and ultimately invites binational thinking.
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