Saraya, the Ogre's Daughter: A Palestinian Fairy Tale

Emile Habiby, Author , trans. from the Arabic by Peter Theroux. Ibis Editions $16.95 (210p) ISBN 978-965-90124-5-9

The final novel from Habiby (1921–1996), written in 1990, is an impressionistic semiautobiography in which an aging writer and political activist mulls over a half-century of conflict and disappointment, while still summoning moments of nostalgia and tender humor. The book emerges as a patchwork of memories and an array of digressive references—from philosopher Ibn Tufayl to Wuthering Heights to Albert Einstein, and above all to the fairy-tale heroine Saraya, a girl held captive by an ogre—in which Habiby's alter ego sees a girl's ghost while fishing and then becomes obsessed with discovering who the girl was. His quest takes him into Arab myth, his own past, and the causes and outcomes of the violence that has plagued the Middle East. Habiby writes passionately of the predicament of Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian diaspora, recounting the struggles of the narrator's close friends and family members as they "become used to the rumble of war." Theroux's expert translation makes accessible to English readers the author's delight in the Arabic language and its possibilities for wordplay. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 01/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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