Isabella Hammad’s latest book Enter Ghost is about a Palestinian theater group attempting to put on a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. The actors come from many different Palestinian experiences, one to the next. Some have Israeli citizenship. Others live in refugee camps or Ramallah or in the diaspora in Europe. But why Hamlet? We look at the unique history of this play within the Arab world, its history of being both performed and banned, but also at how the very act of striving to create a shared performative space, while living under occupation, is a political act in and of itself. Today’s conversation covers many things, from writing against essentialism to the revolutionary potential of art-making.
For the bonus audio archive Isabella contributes a reading of a prison letter that Palestinian political prisoner Walid Daqqa wrote twenty years into his still-ongoing incarceration. This letter, called “Parallel Time,” was adapted for the stage in 2014 and performed in Haifa. The theater that performed it was then defunded by the Israeli government, threatening its ability to continue as a theater (a topic we discuss in the main conversation). Daqqa’s letters have yet to find publication in English. This translation is by Dalia Taha. To learn how to subscribe to the bonus audio archive and the other potential benefits of joining the Between the Covers community as a listener-supporter head over to the show’s Patreon page.
Finally, here is the Bookshop for today’s episode.