A story of friendship, love, and death: Abed Sudani’s ‘How Many More Times Could We Die?’

3rd-year student’s first novel is a tragic masterstroke that beautifully addresses complex issues in a modern template ​

Very rarely can someone translate the feelings of loss, agony, and misery the way Abed Sudani did. Instead of sinking into a state of depression, he mourned his friend in the best way he could, by enshrining his memory in a novel that explores the concepts of love and death, intersecting one another in war-torn Gaza. 

Sudani, a 3rd-year law student at Birzeit University, has been writing in an amateur capacity for the past three and a half years. A tragic event, the death of one of his best friends, who suffered from leukemia, led him to write his first published novel, “How Many More Times Could We Die?”.  

“I remember my friend came one day to school with yellow skin, really noticeablely yellow. And when he tested for diseases, the tests came back positive for leukemia,” said Sudani, telling the story behind writing the novel. 

“His look changed. He started losing hair and he lost a lot of weight, but he never lost his hope of survival. Every time we talked, and I asked him about his condition, he would tell me: ‘Abed, how many more times could we die?’ and that’s where I got the name of my novel from. It is a tribute to his philosophy and to his strength in the face of an undetermined future.” 

Sudani masterfully personalizes his friend’s philosophy in his novel by establishing two main characters who, despite their incredible losses, find and complete each other. 

“Rita and Nabeel have both suffered greatly during the war on Gaza. Rita lost her arm and Nabeel became infertile. But even in the face of such tragedies, of such division and devastation, they make each other whole,” remarked Sudani, adding that their love stands in stark contrast to the waste and wreckage of their land. 

The 300-page novel, published by Dar Al Gaya for Publishing and Distribution, Jordan, is a tragic story that raises awareness of the Palestinian cause and the terrible conditions of Gaza, noted Sudani. But the novel also deals with the Palestinian cause from another, more complex perspective, that of an Israeli army soldier who defects to Gaza. 

“Mariam,” explained Sudani, “is an Arab citizen who was born and raised in the occupied Palestine territories. She served in the Israeli army during the war on Gaza and saw the destruction that befell its citizens. Throughout the novel, we see her transformation and her opening her eyes to what is really happening on the other side of the wall.”

To Sudani, art must serve a purpose. It must elicit a visceral response, evoke emotions, and affect change. And by penning a novel that captures the essence of loss, and the rays of hope, he might have done just that. 

The young author is set to hold a signing ceremony for his novel next week, on Birzeit University’s campus, in Kamal Nasir Hall.