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The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist (Interlink World Fiction Series) Paperback – September 28, 2001
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Original Language: Arabic
Top Customer Reviews
The book is a humorous allegory, wrapped around everyday Arab life, with a bitter nucleus of Israeli oppression. Like Voltaire?s Candide, Saeed believes that this is the best of all worlds. To him it seems quite natural that the occupying forces arrest people in the middle of the night for no reason, that they deport them, that they blow up houses, and that they devastate whole villages. After all, they won the war, and everything - and everybody - now belongs to them. There are those Arabs who want to retaliate immediately. But they are told that the tree is not loved for its flowers, but for its fruit. After all, it took them close to two hundred years to throw out the crusaders. Saeed is the simple soul who sees what goes on around him, but cannot understand why it is so. The bitterness comes with the explanation.
Mr. Habiby wrote a devastating satire. His own life paralleled that of Saeed: he was an Arab in Israel, even a member of the Israeli parliament. He wrote this book almost 30 years ago. It is still valid.
Saeed is able to relate his tale only when he is rescued by an extraterrestrial being (perhaps the Reaper himself) who removes him physically from the absurdities in which he is trapped. In each part of the subsequent autobiographical account, he relates a different loss--of his first love, of his wife and son, of the daughter of his first love--each under different circumstances that are identical in their irrationality. A coward himself, comically useless to his superiors, he is surrounded by rebels. But, once freed from earthly shackles, he can unsparingly ridicule his oppressors, and his tale mocks both Arab oligarchies and Israeli officials.
Habiby's novel owes much to Voltaire, as he makes clear in both the book's title and in a chapter called "The Amazing Similarity between Candide and Saeed." When his extraterrestrial savior points out the resemblance, Saeed responds, "Don't blame me for that. Blame our way of life that hasn't changed since Voltaire's day," and he draws parallels between Pangloss and Israeli dignitaries and between Candide's experiences and recent Palestinian history.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quality book in fine condition delivered in a timely way. Thanks.Published 14 months ago by thomas e.
I was disappointed with this book. I had heard so much about Emile Habiby and this book in specific, and when I found it, I was quite excited to start reading it. Read morePublished on March 25, 2014 by S. Shamma
I was dissapointed with this book--the story line was hard to follow--someone had left written notes with a pen in this bokPublished on May 6, 2013 by charlieb