Books

My Happiness Bears No relation To happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century

By Jonathan Beckman, September 24, 2009

By Adina Hoffman
Yale, £17.99

The Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, praised by Eliot Weinberger as “the most accessible and delightful poet alive today”, was born in 1931 in the village of Saffuriyya in the Galilee (it is now the Jewish town of Tzippori). He spent only four years at school before leaving, against the wishes of his crippled, penurious father Abu Taha, to set up a kiosk next to the family home.

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Review: To This Day

By Gabriel Josipovici, September 17, 2009

By SY Agnon (Trans: Hillel Halkin)
The Toby Press, £9.99

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Pain when a mum kept mum

By Brigit Grant, September 17, 2009

There is something wonderfully reassuring about identifying with the central character of a book, particularly when the protagonist is a good egg with a wry sense of humour and a complex mother.

That might not be you exactly, but forty-something females coping with divorce, empty-nest syndrome or the loss of a much-loved parent will find a fictional soul-sister in Ros, the finely-crafted leading lady of Olivia Lichtenstein’s addictive new novel, Things Your Mother Never Told You (Orion, £12.99).

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Can our heroes save the Middle East?

By Julia Weiner, September 17, 2009

Dancing With Men
By Oreet Ashery
Live Art Development, £15

The Novel of Nonel and Vovel
By Oreet Ashery and Larissa Sansour
Charta Art Books, £30

Art books tend to be glossy affairs, full of rich colour illustrations which attempt to replicate as far as possible the experience of seeing the works of art in the original. But what if, as in the case of Jerusalem-born artist Oreet Ashery, your practice is rooted in performance art? Surely DVDs are the only way to appreciate this kind of work.

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Review: After & Making mistakes

By Jonathan Beckman, September 9, 2009

By Gabriel Josipovici
Carcanet, £14.95

Dissatisfaction is a peculiarly middle-class indulgence. A life that from the outside appears perfect — moderate success, sufficient income, a loving family — can from feel from within claustrophobic and merely adequate, plagued by thoughts of the successes unachieved, the ones that got away, and a nagging lack of purpose.

Gabriel Josipovici’s two new novellas — each barely over 130 pages and issued together under one, elegant cover — both deal with this quiet despair of the bourgeoisie.

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Reading between the pauses

By John Nathan, September 9, 2009

It is more than a decade since the original version of Various Voices: 60 years of Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-2008 (Faber, £14.99) — Harold Pinter’s writings, musings and meanderings — was published. Since that time, some major things have happened in the life of probably the greatest English-language playwright of the last century. For one, he became a Nobel laureate, so this book contains the full, remarkable Nobel lecture. For another, Pinter died.

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Review: Why This World: A Biography Of Clarice Lispector

By Stoddard Martin, September 2, 2009

Benjamin Moser
Haus, £20

Born in a sad corner of Ukraine in 1920, the writer Clarice Lispector’s infancy was haunted by civil war and pogrom. Poverty, flight and swindling by people-traffickers ended in re-plantation on the wild soil of northeastern Brazil. Her father made do in age-old Jewish fashion, as a peddler. Her mother, syphilitic from gang-rape before Clarice’s birth, died when the girl was nine, leaving her with a lifelong sense of absence and guilt.

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Review: Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life

By Samir El-youssef, September 2, 2009

Sari Nusseibeh with Anthony David
Halban, £12.99

Contrary to what is expected and desired, historically victimised nations are not more prudent or compassionate than others. Driven by trauma and a deep sense of injustice, they are more susceptible to extreme views and actions; their reaction to any kind of assault is more likely to be an overreaction. The history of Palestine-Israel could thus be viewed as a cycle of action and overreaction justified by extreme ideologies and political views. Moderation, especially on the weaker, Palestinian side, is a rare currency.

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A question of German identity

By David Herman, September 2, 2009

Disguise (Fourth Estate, £7.99) is Hugo Hamilton’s first novel since his prize-winning memoir, The Speckled People (2003). This was the book that made Hamilton’s name, one of the best accounts of childhood written for many years. It told the story of Hamilton’s childhood in post-war Ireland, the son of a nationalist Irish father, a monstrous figure who refused to let his children speak English.

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Review: 1938: Hitler’s Gamble

By Robert Low, August 27, 2009

By Giles MacDonogh
Constable, £20

Few would disagree with Giles MacDonogh’s assertion that 1938 was a year of “cataclysmal [sic] change” for Germany. At the beginning of the year, Hitler was in firm control but the army still wielded considerable independence, Germany lay within the borders laid down by the Treaty of Versailles, and its Jews, though barred from public life, retained their property and, in the author’s words, “continued to lead relatively normal lives” — a disputable assertion.

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