The Narrative, Again and Again

After first reading The Black Swan, I read it again.

There the narrative fallacy appears repeatedly. It is a bit hypocritical to say the book is under-read and under-understood, while in this very space using narrative to forward certain perspectives. Even if those perspectives are ‘laudable’ — humanising Syrians, de-mystifying Turkey, what have you — it is still trading in cognitive fallacy. I am not going to resolve this point.

I woke up in Tel Aviv this morning and went for a walk south along the water. Picture evidence (timestamped 1:39pm). I made my way back to the spot where the picture is taken and grabbed some frozen yogurt (2:30pm-3:00pm).


At that same time, less than 50 meters away, a man from Nablus (according to the Jerusalem Post) was stabbing four people. None were seriously injured (so far as I know) and the man was arrested shortly after. I was blissfully unaware. There seemed to be a lot of sirens and police presence on the beach even as I had walked up and down it in the hour before the attack.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (I’ve also seen/read it as Holocaust Memorial Day) and I was surprised how many of the shops and restaurants in the neighbourhood were open. Strange, I thought, seems like an ordinary day here. At around six o’clock, once the sun was low enough, I went for a run, north, along the beach.

I ran and ran and I saw many families walking on the beach in orthodox clothing, beside joggers running in short shorts and spandex. My experience of the city through twenty kilometers of waterfront was positively idyllic. I still hadn’t connected to the internet, so I still didn’t know about the nearby attack.

When I returned to the room I had rented, I quickly showered and went to find something to eat. To my surprise everything was closed. I came to a grocery store, the sign flipped to ‘closed’ as I approached. Out of luck and hungry.

Before I had realised this was the state of affairs, the first restaurant I had walked by seemed open. I went back to it. It was 8:05. All the chairs were on the tables but the light was on and the door open. One guy (the owner, turns out) was eating alone at the one table with a chair down. I went in and from the counter saw some guys working in the kitchen. They emerged.

Next I was told the restaurant was closed by about six men, each believing I had not understood the English of the previous one, even though each in succession said the exact same phrase. Really by the time the second was informing me I was asking (with apparently uncommunicative hand gestures), did they know anywhere that was still open?

The sixth, a cook, identified by the others as English fluent, was last to come out of the kitchen to meet me.

Cook: Sorry we are closed.

Me: Yes, I gathered

Cook: Yes, it is the law. Eight o’clock.

Me: Right, do you know anywhere that is open?

Cook: I do not know. But I do know that everywhere else you can go is closed.

Me: I see.


I don’t immediately leave because there is nowhere to go. Slight crestfallenness apparent.

[brief conspiratorial discussion among employees happy to be done working]

Cook: We can give you a dish of take out.

Me: That would be amazing. [reaches in pocket] How much is it?

Cook: Nothing, it is a gift.

Me: What really? [or something like this]

Cook: Yes, it is a gift. It is chicken and rice, called Upside Down. It is from Nabulus, this recipe.

Me: Nablus? [I surely mispronounced]

Cook: Yes, a city in Palestine, in the West Bank. Many tourists visit there. It is beautiful, I think you should go if you have time.

Me: Thank you so much, really.

Cook: Nothing to thank for duty.


This was obviously la-shukra ala wagib translated to English. But for whatever reason (dimness) I stuck to English instead of saying shukran jazeelan. I will rectify this tomorrow.  We exchanged names, I thanked them a few more times and ate my delicious food in the park nearby.

The police drive up and down the streets, I found out subsequently, to make sure every store is closed. So this was no small favour.

The man from Nabulus really saved me tonight. Narrative, narrative.

4 thoughts on “The Narrative, Again and Again

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