Rana Mortaja is a 17 year old high school student at the Ahmad Shawqi Secondary School in Gaza. Like many other young women her age, she dreams of travelling, meeting new people and pursuing her education. However, she has not able to take up the scholarships offered to her in Kenya, Norway and the United States, due to border closures. Writing, she says, allows her to transcend the boundaries that seal Gaza off from the rest of the world and “express myself and tell the rest of the world about my homeland and people”.
Her writing on the 2014 Gazan war has been featured in the New Internationalist. In 2013 one of her short stories was published in an award-winning Swedish anthology called Novel Gaza.
‘I Hope Not to See’ was translated for Comma Press by Elisabeth Jaquette, a writer and translator with a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Swarthmore College, a MA in Anthropology from Columbia University. She was a 2012-2013 CASA (Center for Arabic Study Abroad) fellow at the American University in Cairo. She was also the Arabic reading group chair for UK publisher And Other Stories in Autumn 2013. Her writings in English and Arabic have appeared in Jadaliyaa, the Atlantic Council’s EgyptSource, Mada Masr, Words Without Borders, Dispatches, Muftah, Full Stop, Ibraaz and the Arab Review. She has worked as a translator for Jadaliyaa, the Palestine Festival of Literature, the PEN World Voices Festival and Industry Arabic as well as Comma Press. Her photographs have appeared in the Guardian, Prospect Magazine and Light Leaks Magazine.
‘I Hope Not To See’
I hope the Devil does not see me, weak as I am now.
I hope he does not see my friend, stretched out as a martyr in my heart, that he does not see the smile I will later remember in tears; I hope he does not see me crying over the corpses and the dead.
I hope he does not see me, unable to pack what I hope to keep in just one bag, and forgetting to hide what remains in the vast space of my soul.
I hope he does not see me dancing in the darkness, betraying the war, certain I am not making light of those who have bought their tickets to travel to God.
I hope the Devil does not come to share my mother’s heart with me, for her to let out a trill of joy and then cry for years; I hope the Devil understands that no one makes disgrace cling to a city where a picture of the Virgin is buried in the hearts of its inhabitants.
I hope the mother mourning her son does not think of the Devil, as she embraces her son’s rifle, his keffiyeh, his new shirt, and letters of young love, and yet even so, she can no longer embrace his soul.
I hope the Devil does not come walking, crushing my fears I will be taken to God; I will bear these fears, do not worry dear friends, but I do not want to go to God right now!
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