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My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Centuryby Adina Hoffman
Synopses & Reviews
Beautifully written, and composed with a novelistand#8217;s eye for detail, this book tells the story of an exceptional man and the culture from which he emerged.
Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya and was forced to flee during the war in 1948. He traveled on foot to Lebanon and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact, he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, at the same time evolving into what National Book Critics Circle Awardand#8211;winner Eliot Weinberger has dubbed and#8220;perhaps the most accessible and delightful poet alive today.and#8221;
As it places Muhammad Aliand#8217;s life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, My Happiness offers a sweeping depiction of a charged and fateful epoch. It is a work that Arabic scholar Michael Sells describes as and#8220;among the five and#8216;must readand#8217; books on the Israel-Palestine tragedy.and#8221; In an era when talk of the and#8220;Clash of Civilizationsand#8221; dominates, this biography offers something else entirely: a view of the people and culture of the Middle East that is rich, nuanced, and, above all else, deeply human.
"That his happiness bears a strong relationship to dispossession and exile makes Israeli Arab poet Taha Muhamad Ali, subject of this luminous biography, an iconic voice of the Palestinian consciousness. The 17-year-old Taha and his family lost their home when the Israeli army captured and demolished their village, Saffuriyya, in 1948. After a lifetime spent running a souvenir shop in Nazareth, he has recently won international acclaim for his poetry. Intersecting his perceptions with Hoffman's own account of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (which sometimes favors the Palestinians), Israeli-American essayist Hoffman (House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood) uses his story as the starting point for a painterly reconstruction of the lost world of Saffuriyya and its diaspora. Hoffman is a perceptive reader of Taha's work (which she places in the context of a dynamic Palestinian literary scene) , appreciating its formal inventiveness, its dapplings of melancholy and exuberance, and its grounding in the pungent details and vernacular of village life. Looking past the usual strident politics, Hoffman presents readers with a subtle, moving evocation of the human realities of the Palestinian experience, rooted in land and memory. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"From Adina Hoffman's extraordinary book, I have not only learned about the life of that wise, sweet, cunning, superbly gifted and totally original Palestinian poet, Taha Muhammad Ali, but I have learned — more than ever before & mdash; about Jewish and Arab history in Palestine. The book is heartbreaking, riveting, and beautifully written. Moreover its one of a kind, courageous, and deeply honest." Gerald Stern, National Book Award-winner for This Time: New and Selected Poems
About the Author
Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Nation, the Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement and on the BBC. One of the founders and editors of Ibis Editions, she lives in Jerusalem.
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