The 1948 war between the Israelis and Arabs was just the beginning of other numerous conflicts between the newly formed Israel state and its neighbors (mostly Arabs). Through such conflicts, many people have lost their lives while many more others have lost their homes and thus have become displaced. Some of these conflicts still take place today. Yahya Yakhlif, in A Lake Beyond the Wind, makes use of various narrators to gaudily portray the 1948 war between the Israeli and Arabs. In his book, Yakhlif also explains the hardships, struggles, and sacrifices made by the Palestinians and other Arabs who fought in defense of Palestine. Yakhlif is amongst many writers known in their homelands (Middle East), but not abroad. The title A Lake Beyond the Wind is a depiction of the destruction that has taken place in the narrator’s hometown near the lake. Through his use of many narrations, Yakhlif has managed to depict the horrors and suffering that most Palestinians endured during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
A Lake Beyond the Wind depicts events taking place in the lakeside rural community of Samakh during the Arab-Israeli War that took place in 1948. It appears to be typical of the Middle East I know – conflicts and more suffering. The narrative commences by bringing to mind pre war village life, taking into account Samakh’s backyard and its inhabitants’ usual routine on a day a British soldier vends to young Radi a bulletproof vest while his uncle is absent from the shop (Yakhlif and Tingley 12). Najib, who puts on the vest, goes off to war, and this is where an Iraqi poet takes over the story. The poet, who is in Najib’s battalion, tells the story of another soldier together with his struggle to win the affection of his hometown embraces. This appears to be a description of most other Arab soldiers, who often fight with the passion to liberate their homes from invaders and gain the love of their communities.
The author, Yahya Yakhlif, pursues the themes of war, displacement, and effects of conflict. The novel begins with a narration of the simple and peaceful lifestyle that Palestinians have grown accustomed to in 1948 in the town of Samakh. This is an archetypal Palestinian neighborhood situated along the southern shore of Lake Tiberias. It is described through the eyes of a teenager called Rami, who resides in the town together with his father, mother, and baby brother (Yakhlif and Tingley 13). However, this is all about to change. It is evident that conflicts lead to displacement and change of lifestyle. The readers learn this through Rami’s narrations of how his village’s tranquility has been tampered with during the initial months of 1948 by the threat from Zionists. This tranquility has also been destroyed by the clear probability of war between the Israelis and Arabs. In the end, the readers get a glimpse of the town as the conflict and the pressures of war augment until finally, the town falls to pieces.
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The themes of war and struggle are prevalent throughout the book. The injustice that exists between the two forces is another facet the readers learn as they peruse through the book. It is narrated how the members of Arab Liberation Army (ALA) endured suffering during the conflict due to a shortage of equipment, weapons, and ammunition. Yet, despite the shortage, the young men go beyond their limits to guard Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities from Israeli attacks, which are superior in terms of equipment and number and which often gain ammunition and weapons from the British. This shows the enthusiasm and hope that most Arab soldiers and Palestinian fighters had in their hearts. It is evident that they were protecting their homeland with everything they had at their disposal. Nothing could get them off-track, not even the inferiority of their weapons. Despite the Israeli being better trained and equipped, most Arab fighters continued to hold their grounds to the last minute.
Nevertheless, throughout the book, the readers also get to know about another group formed in defense of the Palestinian people. In small towns and villages, including Samakh, the populace has to defend itself with simple weapons like riffles. This continues to show the struggle Palestinians had to endure all through. However, Samakh, Tiberias and other communities, fall one by one to the stronger and superior Zionist armies. The ALA also succumbs to defeat and is disbanded in the end. Throughout this war, Palestinians flee from their homes to Jordan and Syria as refugees. During this conflict, it is clear that the book narrates the end of the ALA soldiers, including Abdul Rahman from Baghdad, Najib from Samakh, and AsadalShahba from Aleppo.
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Throughout their storyline, these young men appear to always query the trustworthiness of a few of their commanders while in the war. They have discharged in the end anyway. In view of this, the lads come to feel that all they have sacrificed in the war went to waste. These are the repercussions of war. Najib and Abdul Rahman head to Jordan and Syria to look for Najib’s family, who had become refugees as a result of the war. They end up in a Jordanian village of Um Qais, near Lake Tiberias. Najib is overwhelmed with the destruction that has taken place in his hometown near the lake, as the novel’s title depicts “a lake beyond the wind”. Here, the wind is a symbol of the tragedy that has fallen on the Palestinian populace and eventually on the whole Palestinian society.
The author uses a lot of narrators to pinpoint the reliability and history of his tale. The novel is mostly about a teenager’s story, which relates to the gruesome events in two villages: Tiberias and Samakh. The voice can be said to be that of Yakhlif since he was born in Samakh and was about four years of age by 1948. Like many other in the novel, Yakhlif was forced to be a refugee. The book also brings to life two first person-narrators: Abdul Rahman and AsadalShahba. The two tell about their personal voyages from Baghdad and Aleppo to Palestine. They also give their story and desire to guard Palestine against the Zionist invasion. By making use of various narrations, the author appears to be giving his readers numerous different standpoints during the war, whether it is a small boy in a tiny village, or a soldier on the battlefront to guard their homesteads. Nonetheless, throughout all of the narrators, readers comprehend narrators’ losses as well as their sense of trepidation.
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The author switches point of view in a frequent manner, for instance, he hands over the storyline to Radi’s dog. In this regard, the author attempts to give a picture of a Palestinian small town as war ravages through it and sends its occupants into exile through narrative and anecdote. This novel by Yahya Yakhlif is a potent glance into the sufferings endured by the Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Just like other numerous wars, the casualties extend beyond the soldiers to include men, women, and children of the towns and villages, consequently, leaving scars all along. Through Yakhlif narration, the readers grasp his expressive piece of conflict, culture, and history.
The book has some gaining ground, especially with regards to the way the author gives a description of mid-century Palestine life. This account helps Yakhlif to evoke the suffering brought about by the events referred to as “the disaster” by Palestinians. His skills in depictions appear to compensate some of the negatives his Anglophone readers may come across. In view of this, the book does not provide a satisfying end – something synonymous with other Palestinians’ real-life account. There are numerous questions being raised towards the end: will the poet eventually reach his home? Will the Palestinian soldier find his love? Will the people of Samakh reunite for once? The ending is wanting and not satisfying like most other stories would depict.
To conclude, Yakhlif has put to use many narrators in his book and thus managed to depict the horrors and suffering that most Palestinians endured during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. All the themes covered in the book are linked to this particular war. It is clear that many people suffered in the end, especially on the side of Palestinians and Arabs who fought in the war. Many fighters and citizens lost their lives and much more were displaced from their homes. Most Palestinians, who fled from the war, became refugees in other Arab countries including Syria and Jordan. The Middle East is known for war, displacement and suffering. However, this book has given me new insight into the 1948 war. It gives the account of the war from different points of view. My scope of the war was always one sided. I would recommend the book to all those who love Middle Eastern stories about their wars and struggles in life. However, they should not expect a satisfying end typical for other Western novels.
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