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Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist

Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist

by Emile Habiby, Trevor Le Gassick (Translator), Salma K. Jayyusi (Translator), Trevor Le Gassick, Salma Khadra Jayyusi

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A comic antihero's unexpected transformation from wily survivor into principled man of his people is observed with ebullient wit and understated empathy in this famous 1974 novel by Habiby, a Palestinian Arab (1919-98) who lived in Israel and was elected to the Knesset. Habiby's Saeed, close kin to both Voltaire's Candide (as this novel glancingly acknowledges) and Hasek's "Good Soldier Schweik," is a nondescript opportunist who becomes a paid informer for Israeli government officials-until the examples of a courageous namesake and his only son Walaa (a martyred freedom fighter) elevate him beyond his innate cowardice and ignorance. The story is intensely partisan, but it's much more than a polemic, thanks to Habiby's incisive satiric characterizations of true believers and extremists of all persuasions, and especially to an inspired framing device whereby Saeed, having finally escaped the madness of Mideast politics, tells his amazing story from a most unconventional perspective. An entertaining and thought-provoking minor classic.

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Readers International
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