From “My Dovecote” to “My Building”: Intertextuality in Jarrar’s “The Story of My Building”


This paper aims at investigating how Arab American writer Randa Jarrar’s short story “The Story of My Building” (2016) appropriates events, themes, tropes and motifs employed by Russian writer Isaac Babel in his short story “The Story of My Dovecote” (1925) to portray the hard conditions and circumstances that Palestinians endure due to recurrent Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip. Jarrar’s story alludes to anti-Semitic violence, known as pogroms, that marred the lives of Jews in Russia in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Through strategic employment of intertextuality, Jarrar’s story vividly portrays how a child’s dream of building a dovecote has turned into a nightmare due to the demolition of his house by Israeli tanks. Borrowing certain episodes from Babel’s story, Jarrar sets up a link between her story and Babel’s, creating a parallelism between Palestinian people’s aches and anguishes at the hands of Israeli military forces at the start of the twenty-first century and Russian Jews’ sufferings and torments at the hands of pogromists almost a century ago. The connection between the stories is made even stronger as each story is narrated by a smart ten-year-old boy who is traumatized by the pillage and carnage he witnesses and experiences. In Jarrar’s story, Israeli tanks destroy the protagonist’s house and kill civilians; similarly, pogromists loot the protagonist’s house and murder his grandfather. Eventually, the two boys are reunited with their families who have taken refuge at a friend’s house. Yet, while Babel’s protagonist does not lose his house, in Jarrar’s story the protagonist’s family along with several other Palestinian families become homeless and displaced.


Yousef Abu Amrieh


Gaza, intertextuality, Isaac Babel, pogroms, Randa Jarrar