Don't miss out on the book Quill & Quire calls "further testimony to [Di Cintio's] skill in handling one of the most divisive political stories of the last 100 years."
ABOUT THE BOOK
Marcello Di Cintio first visited Palestine in 1999. Like most outsiders, the Palestinian narrative that he knew had been simplified by a seemingly unending struggle, a near-Sisyphean curse of stories of oppression, exile, and occupation told over and over again.
In Pay No Heed to the Rockets, he reveals a more complex story, the Palestinian experience as seen through the lens of authors, books, and literature. Using the form of a political-literary travelogue, he explores what literature means to modern Palestinians and how Palestinians make sense of the conflict between a rich imaginative life and the daily tedium and violence of survival.
Di Cintio begins his journey on the Allenby Bridge that links Jordan to Palestine. He visits the towns and villages of the West Bank, passes into Jerusalem, and then travels through Israel before crossing into Gaza. En route, he meets with poets, authors, librarians, and booksellers. He begins to see Palestine through their eyes, through their stories.
In the company of literary giants like Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani, and the contemporary authors whom they continue to inspire, Di Cintio travels thorugh the rich cultural and literary heritage of Palestine. It's there that he uncovers a humanity, and a beauty, often unnoticed by news media. At the seventieth anniversary of the Arab-Israeli War, Pay No Heed to the Rockets tells a fresh story about Palestine, one that begins with art rather than war.
One day at noon, as the Friday sermon boomed out from the Fisherman’s Mosque, I went for a walk along the seafront road. The November air felt warm to me but evidently too cold for Gazans, as the beach was completely deserted. I stepped off the sidewalk and across a white sand beach littered with plastic bottles, takeout containers, and the carcasses of ketchup packets. Fried chicken bones were picked clean by sea birds and bleached white by the sun.
Down at the water’s edge, where the sea smooths the sand, human litter gives way to what the sea leaves behind. A scattering of clamshells — orange, blue, and brown — spread across the packed sand. They crunch beneath my sandals along with the occasional claw from an unfortunate crab. The sea here smells like the sea should. On the edge of the water, at least, the beach is beautiful the way all beaches are.
I remember walking with Mona after our tour through Shati. She wanted to bring me to Kazem, one of Gaza City’s famous ice cream parlours, for a morning sundae, and we walked along the seafront road a few kilometres north of this stretch of beach. There, open trash bins stunk of rot and buzzed with flies next to leaning shacks built of wood scraps and rusting sheet metal. “It is not a very nice walk,” Mona said, but then her gaze lifted over the stench and squalor to the Mediterranean beyond. “I don’t know how can people live without the sea,” she said.
The sea grants Gaza its only visible horizon and its only open space. Every other vantage point reminds Gazans of closure and incarceration. Mona said that the seaside is the only place she can imagine being out of Gaza. The sea offers no actual escape, of course; Gazans are not allowed a port along this coastline. No ships carry Gazans away from here. But the sea is a window, at least, if not a door.