cover image Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Sayed Kashua, trans. from the Hebrew by Ralph Mandel. Grove, $24 (304p) ISBN 9

This startling and insightful collection of Kashua’s (Second Person Singular) popular weekly columns for the Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz narrates the sobering reality of life as an Israeli-Palestinian. A sense of mistrust and fear constantly thrums beneath his otherwise humorous reports on family life, literary life, and occasional drunkenness. Behind the bashful, bumbling antiheroics and ubiquitous self-deprecation lies a quiet, sane voice pleading for integration of “the two narratives of the two peoples.” Kashua conveys devastating social critique through dry wit, precise metaphor, and seemingly innocent subjects, while in the periphery the rife racism and rising body count speak to the increasing struggle to reconcile two drastically different viewpoints. Whether recounting the insults encountered by his children, shaming from friends and critics alike, Kafkaesque encounters with the civil justice system, or his dreams of escape, Kashua maintains a light satiric tone and steady compassion even as the essays slide into disillusionment. Some nuances may be lost on American audiences, but Kashua’s subtly shaded, necessarily complex, and ultimately despairing account of the tensions within his homeland, “so beloved and so cursed,” is bound to open the eyes and awaken the sympathies of a new swath of loyal readers. Agent: Deborah Harris, Deborah Harris Agency. (Feb.)