Salman Natour: the body of memory, by Akram Musallam

Read by Trond Peter Stamsø Munch during the MOTforestillinger III - Ongoing Nakba?

Translated to english by Motaz Habbash

The past – of the big tragedies – stops of being an abandoned burden, where the present of victims loses its capacity of conducting the normal identification because of the Nakba (catastrophe) incident, instead of the tragical victims dragging their past behind them, they ought to push their past in front of them, in what looks like a curse, as a condition to remain in history and to keep the hope in geography.
The experience of the late brilliant Salman Natour (1949 – 2016) can’t be read, as a guard of memory far from understanding of the Palestinian experience, and he can’t be seen outside the frame of a generation of victims who disappointed the executioner’s bet to forget, where he changed the past from a defeat story and a place of nostalgia to a present stubborn culture and political entity.
But where the specialty of the writer of the trilogy “Sixty Years, Desert Journey” lies, and what gives him his own flavour? How did he narrate the story, and why he succeeded in being the guard of the story, whom he didn’t close his eye till the end of the path and his end?

The Natour’s project at first depended on an early clear and simple vision – but essential and deep – stating that the “game” with the Zionist Colonial project is a game of memory and forgetting, and the issue of memory here is contrary to death, thus it deserves to make whatever efforts it needs to the challenge of life, “the hyenas will eat us if we stay without a memory” Natour said in a phrase that can be a topic for his entire life, from that topic a cultural and aesthetic dictionary was branched, and its vocabulary are on the tongues of the characters densely who are back from the margins of expulsion and exclusion to be on the lead.
The son Daliyat al-Karmel (area) Salaman Natour was known, as in Staying in Haifa, an inadequate and threatened stay, throughout a lot of attentions, that the option of considering memories that losts its place, to protect a place that could lose its memory is difficult option but it is the only option, this was expressed in his last fantasia novel “She, I and the Autumn”, Natour spoke about a strange cock through the story as if it imitates his position and the whole scene of Salman’s cock that lost his chicken, the electricity confused his time, some of his place split while the rest of his place extinct, but still the cock insists on the last meaning of his existence represented by crowing out of accurate times at rejected sun beams to rise.
Then the matter is an issue of voice! Let’s speculate what Salman “the actor” said to his audience, while expressing the characters of his “memory” on the stage: “it won’t be a play and I won’t come to you as actor, it is the summary of the story, and I only represent the voice that remained from the memory”, which is the voice of the cock, appearing as a string pulling the memory of place and missing to a possible place.
The case is also an issue of body also, where the brilliance of the body and its fragility are reflected, like the language, in the identity and its topic in the same time. Natour understood early the body as a place and as a topic for dominance where the injustice left its fingerprint there. The moment of the catastrophe is an unusual signal time, drawing with its place a horrific cross, and drawing wrinkles on the bodies of the victims that Natour read with accuracy as in his hero and narrator “Wrinkled-face Sheikh”.

The climax of Natour’s expressions is represented, by being mixed with his topics, his sensation to the place of the body and the body of the place, in lending his body to his characters in his stories. Where the author – who was never an actor before- ascends to the stage, to close the gap between the language possibility and the shock of reality. When Natour was asked about the “memory” theatre, he said in precisely: the “memory” is what theaterized me.
The attentions of Natour say that history begins from the individual, where he (the individual) is guided to the group through regaining what is personal, as if he is an author to all catastrophes He says: I was born in 1948, entered school during the Suez War, finalized my high school during the June war, got married in October war, my first son was born during the Lebanon War, my father passed away in the Gulf War and my granddaughter Salma was born during the war which is still ongoing.
Jamila says in “she, I and the Autumn”: you were struggling for liberating the world, you were dreaming to whitening the history, you didn’t look to small positions, you didn’t ignore the children and women, nor you speculated a rose drying, what was the result? You were defeated”. As if Jamila speaks from the wisdom of its author, he didn’t rely on the efficiency of justice only to insure the safety of the story, but searched for different aesthetic tools and for sensitivities that overcome crying: he relied on the voices of people, their accents, their scents and the noise in their life, he intentionally pushed sarcasm as a weapon for the weak people, and focused on names, mentioning the names of normal people, the forgotten roads and the modest houses.
The text of Natour mainly expresses him, in his progressiveness; high moralities; his tolerance, his openness and his self-confidence, the characteristics that express themselves in his ability to listen inside his text; his escape from the lack of pretending knowledge, and giving the narrators and characters their spaces without any fear.
Salman Natour didn’t wait for the story to come to him, he held his bag and walked for it between the villages, sitting with people, speaking and listening to them, he wasn’t residing in an ivory tower, but he was in the field and pressed on the paining nerves of the occupation, he experienced the arrest, the house arrest and breaking into his dramas (plays). He worked in journalism, wrote the story, the play, the sarcastic article, the documenting stories and children’s literature. He was open to Palestine geographies and breathed from a broad human lungs, he acquainted the different literary forms and utilized them in a single work without any disharmonies.

There is nothing more beautiful than what Salman paved for the book “Travel on Travel” under the title “Before the Departure”, in which he expressed his awareness to the meaning of his open work onto the possibilities, and his total integration with his place and his human being, as if the place is an enough aesthetic justification to be an alternative of what is less than it, and as if the privacy of the topic with its adherent to life through regaining the memory of missing its lives, characters, voices, scents allow him to take whatever form or even without a form too: “nothing in this travel may cause the astonishment and nothing in it signing an old place / not a life history nor a tour and not a novel nor the literature of journey and moving away / not a description to the place brilliance nor a modernity or poetry / not about the displaced Palestinian nor about the Palestinian who stayed in his country / not about human / not about the place nor the exile nor about the country / not about me nor about you / it is a text for the questions marks and exclamation points / it is the Palestinian place without borders and the Palestinian time without beginning or ending / it is the Palestinian human without place nor a country nor a time nor a hope and nor a dream / it is the no place no time nor ground nor sky / it is an absolute expulsion, a pure idea and nothing / totally nothing / and from here the story begins”.

The events and realities say that Natour’s “crowing” wasn’t in vain, the memory, whom his generation and the generation before him were guarding, had fruited, and the first fruit was in his Haifa where we see it turning into a culture capital for Occupied Palestine 1948, it also fruited in finding a beautiful Arabic language that appeared in the writings of a new generation in Al-Jaleel area, Muthalath area and Java, a generation that resists the attempts of Israelization, it also fruited in the youths coming out of this cultural achievement protecting what is left of the place, we saw them confronting with courage the attempts of Judaising the Neqev area in the near past as an exclusive example.
The death – in its existential and colonial meaning – is as a way bandit, where many ways lose their meaning. Salman Natour died, the way he passed – till his end – remains over loaded with meanings, with convincing suggestions for new starts, this is the story.


Main works of Salman Natour:
- Behind the Words, stories, Jerusalem 1972.
- The tree that its roots are extended to my chest, stories, Akka 1978.
- And We didn’t Forget, (stories about the catastrophe) Dar Al-Jadeed, Haifa 1983.
- The Town’s Tavern, satirical stories, Haifa 1987.
- The Trilogy: Sixty Years, The Desert Journey, Shorouq Printing, Amman – Ramallah, 2009.
- She, I and the Autumn, (Novel), Raya Printing, Haifa 2011.


Salman also wrote a number of plays:
- Forced Landing, 1999.
- Memory, 2003.
- Shaking the sieve, 1992.

Natour also wrote children stories and books where he collected all his sarcastic articles, he has his own cultural view and translated many books from Hebrew.