Contemporary literary work by the young Palestinian generation expresses the writers' ideas on a variety of issues pertaining to present Palestinian life in its political, social and psychological aspects. However, the ideas are not definitive or crystallized. In this case, the literary and the political have gone hand in hand, as the new literary output mirrors the ambiguity that also typifies the political scene. In other words, the intellectual vagueness and confusion among the youth is, naturally, articulated by writers and authors among them.
The literary writings that made their appearance during the 1990s, especially since 1993 (the Oslo agreement) are works by young authors trying to forge their own way. Only a few of them come close to finding an individual creative voice, giving authenticity to their feelings, thoughts, and attitudes towards life, the homeland, woman and other contemporary issues. The bulk of the authors are still in the formative stages, grappling with rebellion, imitation, experimentation, and attempts to prove themselves at all cost. All are influenced by the impact upon society of the changing political climate, with its implications on public and private levels.
In the context of this ambiguity in the literary form, as well as in the intellectual, human, social and psychological content, we can note the trends of the young generation of Palestinian writers in the various genres: the short story, poetry and the novel.

The Short Story

Among the writers of short stories that have achieved recognition on the literary scene in recent years are Ziad Khaddash, Saleh Masharqah, Jamal Qawasmi and Iman Al-Basseer.
In his collected short stories, A Foul Appointment with the Storm (Arabic), Ziad Khaddash evokes the issue of the alienation of the Palestinian individual, especially the youth, in light of the political and social changes. Thus, he writes with considerable bitterness about those in the society around him who are marginalized and as yet incapable of digesting the change to which they are subject. As a consequence, his characters are apprehensive, skeptical of the political process, angry especially with the conduct of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and its men, against the backdrop of Palestinian poverty and unemployment. His characters are equally angry with the various aspects of the Israeli occupation, direct or indirect, which the peace process has failed to bring to an end.
In his critical mood, Khaddash focuses on the erotic dimension. This can be seen especially in the short stories written with the city of Ramallah as setting. It would seem that in these romantic and sexual associations political repression has found a social and psychological outlet. And while the preoccupation with the self manifests itself more honestly in his writings than his attempt to persuade the reader of a specific political stance - he has taken a position against normalization with Israel - Khaddash fails as a young Palestinian writer to offer any new option in his writings.
Saleh Masharqah deals with reality in isolation of any specific event. He captures bucolic characters and dwells on describing and reminiscing about dramatic tableaux from the past, and it is the past that influences his assessment of the present. This kind of retrospection is a form of escapism, especially when the author approaches his subject from an objective perspective and lacks the subjectivity characterizing the work of Ziad Khaddash.
In Jamal Qawasmi, who wrote his short story Ashjan about the Intifada, in addition to several other stories, we can sense a greater shift than in the rest of the young authors towards subjectivism, nearing on the sarcastic, the absurd and the mythical. The woman is ever present in his writings, but his linguistic audacity and his breaking of taboos have gone to such extremes that he has faced difficulties having some of his works published. At the same time, we see a humanistic trend in his writings concerning his perception of the Other - the Israeli - whom Qawasmi portrays as an ordinary human being. Qawasmi also tried to experiment with a new approach to the short story by portraying the ordinary Palestinian individual, with all his/her foibles, frustrations and ambitions, deviating thus from the traditional depiction of the Palestinian as the fighter and the rebel. In other words, in his work, Qawasmi looks at the humanity of the Palestinian and the Israeli alike.
Among the young women writers who have made a name for themselves is Iman Al-Basseer. Before Oslo, she wrote stories with a national bent, yet the human element was ever present, hovering between the romantic, the social critique and the psychological analysis - all this projected against the background of suffering under the occupation. After Oslo, Al-Basseer published a collection of stories entitled Jasad Min Bakhour (Body of Incense) where she trod a more humanistic path, emphasizing the social dimension, influenced by modernistic concepts, especially issues pertaining to women and gender.
The peace process has had its impact on Palestinian society, socially and economically. Issues of mismanagement by the PNA of political and economic life, and topics like wealth and poverty, freedom of women, the job market, consumerism, political and ideological contradictions - all these have had their mark on the young writers. That is why writings about the "resistance" have dwindled and the concept of the Other has become more objective, making a distinction between the occupier and the ordinary Israeli who believes in peace and coexistence. At the same time, these young people are finding the moment propitious to rebel against the new reality in view of their marginalization, social and literary, which they perceive as being the result of an official policy.


Among the foremost trends in poetry is a move towards modernism on all levels - be it a mature, conscious modernism, or one which is merely imitative. The national, political discourse has receded noticeably and now the homeland is merely implied. The patriotic poem has given way to the romantic, focusing on the woman, as well as on the aesthetics of the language and poetic imagery. A preoccupation with social and intellectual matters predominates more in the short story than in the poem, possibly because of the traditional rhythmic nature of the poem.
Among the young poets is Khaled Abdallah, who has published modernistic poems viewed by critics and readers as incomprehensible. Khaled deals with the locale, woman and love, shunning any political or nationalistic theme. Khaled Juma'a, another young modern poet, also treats topics of human interest in his writings for both adults and children.
Abdel Nasser Saleh, on the other hand, exemplifies a slow change in style, structure and content. For years he was known for his political poems of resistance. However, this form of an explicit expression of resistance to the occupation has become critically unacceptable after Oslo, as this stage calls for a style more in keeping with the structural and intellectual changes that have taken place on the ground. This poet did not find it easy to adjust so readily to the new trend.
Muhammad Hilmi Al-Rishah did not encounter this difficulty. His work has seen a rapid shift towards existential and romantic topics. Nevertheless, he kept on raising the issue of the Other, albeit with decreasing frequency, especially in his more recent work.
The women poets that have come to the fore in the last six years are Ghada Shafi'i, Sumayya Al-Soussi and Manal Al-Noujoum. The first has passed through the stage of patriotic/national poetry, but her major themes now deal with the human dimension in general, and with women's issues, in particular: the woman with a right to self-expression, and the right to delve into poetic areas dealing with the soul, the body and her internal feelings.

The Novel

One young novelist who has achieved recognition is Atef Abu-Seif who is also a poet and critic. His interests center around human and intellectual issues for which he chose the novel as a suitable vehicle.
Another young voice is Ahmad Rafik Awad, who has recorded the social, political, and intellectual changes of Palestinian society since the sixties. His orientation is historical-analytical at times and critical at others. After Oslo, he published a novel dealing with the social and economic impact after the establishment of the PNA. Through his novel we can perceive the strong critical trend regarding the practices of the leadership and those close to them. The author chose Ramallah as a fertile setting for his criticism. At the same time, his concept of the Israeli remains ambiguous or neutral.
In general, the connection between political slogans and literature is weakening. The writings of young Palestinians show a clear preoccupation with the self, the society and the place of the individual in it, as well as with a feeling of alienation and futility in their quest for self-fulfillment. Therefore, we can say that these short stories, poems and novels are writings in search of a voice more than their being a genuine and total expression of the youth regarding issues of humanity, of the individual, of the national and nationality. The yet-unformed artistic structure of this literary output is a strong indication of the absence of a crystallized vision among the young generation in its strivings to answer questions about humanity, politics and other contemporary issues. These young writers lack the necessary maturity and are still under the sway of passivity and impressionability. In other words, this is not yet a youth that constitutes the intellectual vanguard of its society.