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Of Beginnings And Endings

Semeen Ali

By Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Fingerprint, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 352, Rs. 295.00


‘You cannot go back and make a new start, but you can start now and make a new ending.’-- The Almond Tree   Michelle Cohen Corasanti places one family at the centre of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians to depict how it feels to be a Palestinian and have one’s land taken away and belongings destroyed under a strict military rule. The Almond Tree is a story written in the first person narrative where the protagonist Ahmed Hamid’s life and psyche is being constantly shaped by the events that happen around him.   It is right at the beginning of the novel that Corasanti without mincing words shows us the brutal reality that Ahmed’s family is threatened by landmines planted by the Israelis. The death of his sister and the loss of innocence that begins from the first chapter is heart wrenching. The series of tragedies that Ahmed is a witness to slowly changes the way he looks at the world. The only spectator that remains to see Ahmed’s journey from boyhood to manhood is the almond tree called Shahida (which means a witness) in the novel.   Interestingly Corasanti places Abbas, Ahmed’s younger brother alongside Ahmed to bring out the two sides of a coin—the alternating views regarding the treatment of Palestinians in Israel and Gaza. For Abbas: ‘Good things make choosing difficult, bad things leave no choice.’ Where Abbas turns out to have an angry and revengeful stand on Israelis, Ahmed believes in peace and tries to work on a solution to prevent further bloodshed and hatred. Education for Ahmed turns up as a tool to solve this problem. There is also the problem of the school curriculum which is controlled by the Israelis. The book sheds light on the control of knowledge which is being done by the Israelis with no regard to the history of the Palestinians, their history either being erased or contorted. Ahmed’s love for Physics and his intelligence brings a change in his perception regarding people, and his father’s approach towards the multifarious problems that the family undergoes builds and strengthens Ahmed’s positive outlook towards life and people. The novel is a bildungsroman, carefully tracing how in the face of the hardest situations his never-say-die attitude leads to the development of his character.   The most endearing character in the novel is Baba—Ahmed’...

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