Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: THE PALESTINIAN LOVER, by Selim Nassib

The Palestinian Lover, by Selim Nassib. Published 2007 by Europa Editions. Literary fiction. Translated from the French by Alison Anderson.

The Palestinian Lover is a book that keeps me thinking about it long after I closed the final pages. First, there's that title. To what, or whom, does it refer? The book is about a fictional love affair between Golda Meir and an Arab businessman named Albert Pharaon. So maybe it refers to Albert, Golda's Palestinian lover. Or maybe it refers to Golda; the French title is L'Amante Palestinese, amante being the feminine form of the word, and another English translator chose A Lover in Palestine as the title.

Certainly the book is about a woman who loves the land called Palestine, who has come from Europe and America to make a new home there, and for whom a man like Albert represents both the ultimate forbidden fruit and the single thing from which she cannot turn. There's a second woman, too, a Palestinian woman with whom Albert has a relationship after his affair with Golda ends. The book covers time from the early 1930s through 1948 and ranges from a kibbutz to the city but rests largely in the minds of its characters.

Certainly identity and it malleability, the way we put it on like clothes and wear it into the world, is a central theme of the book. Other themes include individual versus group identity, adherence to convention and the power of passion to challenge our ideas about ourselves. The Palestinian Lover also figures as an example of Europa Editions' mission to bring important Arabic literature to Europe and America. Unfortunately it's out of print now but I hope that readers interested in the Middle East and Israel will keep an eye out for this fascinating and important novel.

It's my third for the 2014 Europa Challenge.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

1 comment:

Meytal Radzinski said...

I know this isn't the takeaway I'm supposed to have, but the last thing I want is to imagine Golda Meir with any sort of lover. Just saying.