sat 15/06/2024

Book extract: Minor Detail by Adania Shibli - III of III | reviews, news & interviews

Book extract: Minor Detail by Adania Shibli - III of III

Book extract: Minor Detail by Adania Shibli - III of III

Extract III of III - I keep driving, past barren hills

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli© Fitzcarraldo Editions

At the end of an exhausting day's driving punctuated by disappointments and false leads, the narrator finds herself back at the Israeli town of Nirim where she spends the night. Slipping off early in the morning, she first fills her eyes with the view of Gaza on behalf of her colleagues who grew up there and now live in the West Bank. Driving south, she stops at a cluster of houses that might be a forgotten village.


I keep driving, past barren hills that slowly turn into pale yellow sand again, while the traffic diminishes until there are no other cars. Now, the only movement belongs to the mirage, which makes the roads and hills waver nervously. Shadows begin to appear, but they vanish the moment I look at them, until suddenly I catch sight of an old woman standing on the side of the road before an intersection. I stop the car alongside her. I roll down the window and ask if I can help her with something, or if she’d like me to take her somewhere.

The old woman gets into the car. She settles into the passenger seat beside me and we set off, both taking refuge in the silence, and each of our gazes hanging on different parts of the scene surrounding us. I’m looking forward, at the road which cuts through the rippling hills, where the colour of earth has changed from pale yellow to light brown, and she looks out to the right; I can tell by the angle of her head, which is covered with a scarf, black like her black dress. I steal glances at her as I drive, at part of her face, which is lined with sharp wrinkles, then at her hands, which she lets rest in her lap, on the fabric of her black dress, and they seem stronger than any hands I’ve seen in my life. They’re traced with blue veins that recall the lines on the maps I tossed into the back seat when I stopped the car to take her with me. She’s probably in her seventies. The girl would have been around the same age now, most likely, if she hadn’t been killed. Maybe this old woman has heard about the incident, since incidents like that would have reached the ears of everyone living in the Naqab, terrorizing them all, and no one who heard about it would be able to forget. I could start by asking her about the area, and how long she’s lived here, then gradually transition to asking about the incident, and if she knows anything about it. But the words do not emerge from my mouth. The silence between us stretches on, as vast as nature’s silence expanding around us, and tightens its grip, until the old woman suddenly asks me to stop, and so I do, and she gets out. But before she does, she looks directly into my eyes. Then she turns and quietly retreats towards a sandy path to the left, which no one travelling on the asphalt road would notice or imagine might lead somewhere.

I steal glances at her as I drive, at part of her face, which is lined with sharp wrinkles

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters