Books By Heart: Pay No Heed to the Rockets
Review of Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense by Marcello Di Cintio
Books by Heart is a new initiative to help humanize Nova Scotia hospital care, with a curated collection of ebooks and audiobooks available for free to patients, families, and staff. The reading platform and program are being tested out first at the University of King’s College, and we’ve enlisted some King’s student reviewers to help promote more engagement with the collection within the King’s community. Find out more about the project (and read this book for free if you’re a member of the King’s community!) at BooksByHeartKings.ca
By Jeremy Hull
Marcello Di Cintio has made a career out of walking the road less travelled.
“I was a guy with a backpack first,” Di Cintio said.
He chose the Palestinian territories as a setting for his book after experiencing the conflict there firsthand.
“It’s an unusual place to travel because it challenges your neutrality,” Di Cintio said. “It forces you to pick a side.”
Despite the controversy it could invite, Di Cintio is clear about his own position.
“I don’t mind saying I am clearly in the Palestinian camp,” Di Cintio said.
Di Cintio didn’t go to Palestine to understand the truth of a complicated conflict. He went there to better understand people through the stories they tell.
“It was a great way in,” Di Cintio said. “Instead of having to jump right into politics, we talk about stories.”
Di Cintio said that politics and religion find their way into most conversations in the Palestinian territories. He said his book is an attempt to portray the Palestinian people as more than victims or militants.
“We can’t just hang trauma on them,” Di Cintio said. “These are people with the same rich depth and diversity you find anywhere else.”
Di Cintio said that he didn’t want to overwhelm his readers with the complicated nuances he discovered in his research, so he tried to balance it with the beauty he found in Palestinian art and literature.
The title of Di Cintio’s book is an homage to the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, an internationally celebrated poet who died in the U.S. in 2008.
“In the poem Darwish writes about the ritual of making coffee,” Di Cintio said. “He’s added the coffee and the hot water, then he writes, ‘pay no heed to them rockets.’”
Di Cintio said he loves the passage because it demonstrates the capacity of Palestinians to find moments of serenity, while conflict surrounds them. He said that all Middle Eastern people have perfected the art of hospitality, but Palestinians extend a greater sense of gratitude to travellers amidst the conflict.
“There is gratitude for bearing witness,” Di Cintio said.
Despite being a witness to the conflict, Di Cintio said he wrote his book to show the West another side of Palestinians. After generations of fighting, they make art and tell stories. They find beauty in small rituals, like a cup of coffee even while the rockets fall from the sky.
“Not everything is a metaphor,” Di Cintio said. He recommended that anyone who would like to understand the Palestinians and their struggle should seek a way into the politics through the back door.
“I try to find the beauty in the darkness,” Di Cintio said. “I’m a writer, so I started with literature.”
Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense is a Goose Lane Editions publication.
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