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The Parachute Paradox unrolls Palestinian Artist Steve Sabella’s Quest for a Sense of Identity | Joseph Dana | The National

The number of books about Israel and Palestine published every year can feel oppressive to the average reader. Coupled with the constant stream of news, it is clear that there is untappable desire for discussion about the conflict. Yet, new books tend follow the same patterns in terms of approach, construction and content. An in-depth history of one stage of the conflict, a compelling argument to achieve peace or, perhaps, a convincing strategy to challenge the status quo. On rare occasions, an original narrative of the conflict, imbued with honesty and sensitivity, is published.
Steve Sabella's memoir, The Parachute Paradox, is one such narrative, but it has flown under the mainstream radar. That might have something to do with its author and the unorthodox style of the book. Sabella is an artist from Jerusalem. His art, which has garnered him acclaim from Berlin to Dubai, wrestles with notions of identity in Palestine.
The Parachute Paradox is devoid of the pretension normally associated with conflict memoirs. Sabella doesn't have anything to prove with his story. As he describes his upbringing in Jerusalem's Old City and what life was like for his Christian family, Sabella is having a conversation with himself as much as with the reader. He floats between Palestine and Israel, but life in the seam creates more identity problems than it solves.
He is able to exist in many spaces – in West Jerusalem cafes with Israeli friends, in Jerusalem night clubs, in European art circles, in Gaza with Palestinian militants – but every new encounter pushes him further away from his true identity. He unpacks this search for meaning through a retelling of the last 30 years of fighting in Israel and Palestine. His quest for belonging, however, is satisfied in the form of his European wife, who he met in Jerusalem’s Old City. But even as they move to Europe and begin a family, the artist still feels ripped apart from his true identity. An identity that he seemingly can’t define.
There is no straightforward conclusion to this narrative. Sabella, as if instructed by a therapist to grapple with his identity issues through journaling – puts his story out for the reader to inspect as if it was a painting. The book itself comes packaged in a heavy cover that unfolds rather than opens in a traditional manner. Inside the cover is a bound book with no cover that demands the reader place the volume on a table and carefully leaf through its pages.


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