University of Sussex
So dense a commingling of the improbable and the mundane writing Palestinian history in a magical realist key.pdf (660.24 kB)

‘So dense a commingling of the improbable and the mundane!’: writing Palestinian history in a magical realist key

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-09, 11:31 authored by Jacob NorrisJacob Norris
This article reflects on writing a history book in the style of a magical realist novel. The book, The Lives and Deaths of Jubrail Dabdoub, employs classic techniques from magical realist fiction to narrate the transformation of the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the 19th century. In this article, I describe the process of writing the book, using this as an entry-point into a wider discussion on how historians can productively engage with literary form and genre. Drawing on fictional writing in Spanish, Arabic and English, the article argues magical realist prose is particularly well suited to capturing a sense of the fantastical, the uncanny and the absurd – areas of historical experience usually neglected in academic writing. I discuss how I experimented with specific techniques to tap into Bethlehem’s arresting, often bizarre encounters with global capitalism in the 19th century, as well as explore my own relationship to this history as a British historian writing about Palestine.


Merchants and miracles: global circulations and the making of modern Bethlehem : AHRC-ARTS & HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCIL | AH/P013384/1


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Published version


Rethinking History: the journal of theory and practice




Taylor & Francis

Department affiliated with

  • History Publications


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes