Touch centers on a girl, the youngest of nine sisters in a Palestinian family. In the singular world of this novella, this young womans everyday experiences resonate until they have become as weighty as any national tragedy. The smallest sensations compel, the events of history only lurk at the edges–the question of Palestine, the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. In a language that feels at once natural and alienated, Shibli breaks with the traditions of modern Arabic fiction, creating a work that has been and will continue to be hailed across literatures. Here every ordinary word, ordinary action is a small stone dropped into water: of inevitable consequence. We find ourselves mesmerized one quiet ripple at a time.
Shibli’s writing is exquisite. Her prose is fluid with a smoothness leaving the reader mesmerized. Her writing style is subdued without subtracting from what the words communicate.
The narrator is an unnamed young Palestinian girl. We spend time with the protagonist and see the world through her eyes. Shibli engages colors, silence, movement, language and ‘the wall’ as they are interpreted and incorporated into the girls world and senses. Seeing the world through the eyes of an innocent causes the reader to pause. The girl sees things no child should bear witness to. She isn’t desensitized to the events she witnesses but rather possesses a naivety allowing her the inability to fully understand the depth of certain situations.
Touch approaches the horrid massacre at Sabra and Shatila in a compelling manner without this historical and devastating event being the apex of the narrative.
The young girl witnesses death, experiences love, watches a funeral procession, battles with her many siblings, learns to read – these minute experiences pull the reader in deeper and magnifies the reading adventure along with the prose and the narrator.
Both the words and content create a quiet storm. Hypnotizing, urging the reader to examine their surrounding through an abstract lens focusing on the fact less is more. Touch is similar to skimming stones on still water. One stone has the ability to create more than one small ripple in still and placid water.