Passage to the Plaza

Passage to the Plaza
Publisher: Seagull Books
Published Date: March 2020
ISBN-13: 9780857427700

This book was shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2020.

In Bab Al-Saha, a quarter of Nablus, Palestine, sits a house of ill-repute. In it lives Nuzha, a young woman ostracized from and shamed by her community.

When the Intifada breaks out, Nuzha’s abode unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary for those in the quarter: Hussam, an injured resistance fighter; Samar, a university researcher exploring the impact of the Intifada on women’s lives; and Sitt Zakia, the pious midwife who wouldn’t be caught dead therein.

In the furnace of conflict at the heart of the 1987 Intifada, notions of freedom, love, respectability, nationhood, the rights of women and Palestinian identity - both among the reluctant residents of the house and the inhabitants of the quarter at large - will be melted and re-forged. Vividly recounted through the eyes of its female protagonists, Passage to the Plaza is a ground-breaking story that shatters the myth of a uniform gendered experience of conflict.


Judges' Notes on why this book was shortlisted:

A fascinating and complex novel, by a well known novelist, which takes place during the 1987 Intifada in Nablus. Against a background of the conflict the story is woven around a series of characters each faced with different challenges and choices - the sheltering freedom fighter, the ostracised and shamed woman, a traditional midwife, a university graduate studying women’s rights, and other characters from the quarter in Nablus. Their interaction in a context of struggle, rights and freedom comes to a dramatic and violent climax at a checkpoint at the end of the book.

Notes by Alan Waddams, Judge, Palestine Book Awards 2020
Read the Judges' Notes for all the shortlisted books here.


Reviewed by: Lauren Lewis

Translated 30 years after it was originally published in Arabic as Bab al-Saha, Sahar Khalifeh’s Passage to the Plaza is a fast-paced novel that follows a multi-generational cast through the first Palestinian Intifada. It is written from a predominantly female perspective by three women protagonists, and sheds new light on a gendered...