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Secret Life of Saeed, The
The Pessoptimist
Emile Habiby; translated by Salma Khadra Jayyusi and Trevor LeGassick

5 1/4 x 8 • 192 pages
ISBN 9781566564151 • paperback • $15.00

This contemporary classic, the story of a Palestinian who becomes a citizen of Israel, combines fact and fantasy, tragedy and comedy. Saeed is the comic hero, the luckless fool, whose tale tells of aggression and resistance, terror and heroism, reason and loyalty that typify the hardships and struggles of Arabs in Israel. An informer for the Zionist state, his stupidity, candor, and cowardice make him more of a victim than a villain; but in a series of tragicomic episodes, he is gradually transformed from a disaster-haunted, gullible collaborator into a Palestinian—no hero still, but a simple man intent on survival and, perhaps, happiness.

The author’s own anger and sorrow at Palestine’s tragedy and his acquaintance with the absurdities of Israeli politics (he was once a member of Israel’s parliament himself) are here transmuted into satire both biting and funny. Translated by Anton Shammas into Hebrew, The Secret Life of Saeed won Israel’s foremost Prize for Literature; a stage version played to great acclaim for a decade.

Emile Habiby was one of Israel’s best-known Arab journalists and writers. He has published several highly acclaimed novels and plays and his work has been translated into German, French, and Hebrew. Habiby died in 1998.

Salma Khadra Jayyusi
is one of the Arab world’s most distinguished literary personalities and is widely known for her poetry and literary criticism.

Trevor LeGassick, scholar and professor of Arabic liteature at the University of Michigan, has translated many novels and edited an anthology of modern Arabic prose.

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Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Wild Thorns
The Image, the Icon, and the Covenant
Days of Miracles and Wonders, The
End of Spring, The