Rima Abunasser, an Assistant Professor who teaches Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture, Contemporary American Popular Culture, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Literature of the Arab World, and the Feminist Literary Tradition at Furman University, is currently guest-blogging at Ecstatic Days. She shares what she’s currently reading and watching. Here’s an excerpt:
- Emile Habiby’s The Secret Life of Saeed, the Ill-Fated Pessoptimist.
I’ve been teaching a class on Modern Arabic Literature this semester and, as a result, I’ve gotten to re-read a lot of really great work. Really great work. The Secret Life is, IMHO, one of the most endearing, confusing, challenging, funny, fantastical narratives to tackle the situation in Israel/Palestine. Habiby was a Palestinian-Israeli who served as a sitting member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) as a founding member of Maki (the Israeli Communist Party). He stirred up some controversy in 1990 when he was awarded (and accepted) both the al-Quds Prize, awarded by the PLO, and the Israel Prize, generally regarded as the Israeli state’s highest honor. The novel is a comic masterpiece; it begins with Saeed claiming to have been visited by space aliens to whom he narrates an absurd story of conflict, torture, exile, and loss. Following in the footsteps of comic anti-heroes like Voltaire’s Candide, Saeed is a frustrating failure who is as absurd as the narrative he tells. If you’ve ever been interested in the absurd, the meeting of tragedy and comedy, or the interweaving of the personal and the political, do yourselves a favor and get a copy of this novel. – Read the rest of the article.