Six Years After Publication, Zionist Protests Transform Adania Shibli’s ‘Minor Detail’ Into a Major Detail

Elie Chalala
On the left, the German cover of "Minor Detail" by Adania Shibli. On the right, Adania Shibli, photographed by Wiktoria Bosc.
Arab reactions to the “indefinite postponement” of an award ceremony honoring Palestinian author Adania Shibli and her novel, “Minor Detail”  have ranged from ideological to radical, with several voices leveraging the October 16 decision by LitProm, the awards administrator of the Frankfurt Book Fair, as yet another reason to decry Western imperialism. Although such responses abound, some Arab critics come close to doing justice to the novel and its author, approaching the decision without pre-existing prejudices on East-West relations coloring their criticisms. These moderate reactions, some of which come from professionals, particularly journalists, counterbalance the "impulsive" Arab radical intellectuals while at the same time countering the Zionist distortion campaigns against Shibli. Unlike their radical counterparts, these Arab critics closely examine the novel, analyzing its structure, plot, language, tone, symbols, and metaphors to break down the layers of Shibli’s motivations. The result is a rather refreshing breath of fresh air from the ideological diatribes that dominate Arab dailies while providing a theoretical and factual challenge to the novel's Western critics all the same. 
Adania Shibli’s “Minor Detail” is by no means a new novel. Originally published in Arabic in 2017, the short novel has been translated into a slew of languages over the past five years, receiving editions in Spanish in 2019, English and French in 2020, German in 2022, and Polish in 2023. In 2020, it was a finalist for the National Book Award, and in 2021 was longlisted for the International Booker Prize. Its German edition, “Eine Nebensache” (Berenberg Verlag, translated by Günther Orth), had initially been slated to receive Germany’s LiBeraturpreis at the 2023 Frankfurt Book Fair (October 18-23) before organizers canceled the awarding, announcing an indefinite postponement on October 16 due to “the terror against Israel,” according to the announcement by Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Excerpted from "Six Years After Publication, Zionist Protests Transform Adania Shibli’s ‘Minor Detail’ Into a Major Detail" by Elie Chalala, scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Al Jadid, No. 84, Vol. 27, 2023.
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