“Nothing to Lose but Our Tents”: The Camp, the Revolution, the Novel,
Palestinian revolutionary politics were in part defined by the historical challenge of the refugee camps. To politically mobilize the encamped Palestinian body and become a popular mass movement, the revolution required nothing less than the transformation of the camps into the means of their own undoing. This article examines three novels of the revolutionary period (by Kanafani, Abu Shawir, and Yakhlif) to show that Palestinian revolutionary realism both heeded this insurrectionary call but also undermined it. On the one hand, camp life is mediated as only the superficial expression of deeper political totality that lies elsewhere—in other words, only in armed struggle outside the camps can camp life be overcome—and on the other, just at the point when the camp should be overcome in the protagonist’s journey toward militancy, the very narrative drive itself stutters. Reading these novels, I argue, points us to political roads not taken, and to ways of thinking about Palestinian camp life as more than a means to another end elsewhere.