Palestinian novelist Atef Abu Saif sits next to a photo of late Palestinian poet and author Mahmoud Darwish. (AP/Nasser Nasser)
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A Gaza novelist who was shortlisted for a prestigious Arabic literature prize but couldn't attend the announcement ceremony because of alleged Hamas harassment says he learned storytelling from his refugee grandmother, who recounted happier times.Abu Saif, 41, has continued writing since then, through two Palestinian uprisings, clashes between rival political factions and three full-fledged wars pitting the territory's militant Hamas rulers against Israel.Abu Saif tried to leave Gaza to attend the announcement of the shortlisted works in Casablanca, Morocco, in February, but Hamas delayed his exit permit, he said.Abu Saif said Hamas has been trying to impose its own culture on Gaza.Abu Saif's life is closely intertwined with the turbulent history of Gaza.Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally in 2005, and Hamas seized the territory two years later from Fatah. Since the Hamas takeover, Israel and Hamas have fought three wars, while Egypt and Israel have largely sealed the territory's borders.He later won scholarships for a master's degree from the University of Bradford in Britain and a doctorate from the University of Florence, in Italy, both in political science.He now teaches political science at Gaza's Al Azhar University. The books were only published in Gaza, and his readers were few.
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