My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poets Life in the Palestinian Century

In Memoriam: Taha Muhammad Ali
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Neither was able to get to the other. Years later, Ali finally saw Amira again in Lebanon with the help of an Israeli friend. His lost love becomes symbolic of his lost homeland. Both Ali and Amira went on to have their own lives and families, having suffered their own tragedies and their own versions of displacement, both literal and metaphorical.

“My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness”: A Palestinian poet’s life and work

He answers exactly as he had then. And you wept, and flowers bowed their heads, and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled. He lost Palestine, Saffuriyya, siblings, a cousin, his promised bride, and later, his only grandson, Basel, just 15 years old.

He became a refugee, was subjected to a lifetime of curfews, travel limitations, censorship, and daily humiliations. Yet his courage, deeply rooted in his simple poems, insists that we listen. Adina Hoffman enlightens us about this search in her exquisitely written biography. Saffuriyya, like other Palestinian villages, ceased to exist that fateful summer.

It was renamed Tzippori, a biblical Hebrew name that may have been corrupted into Arabic centuries before, and settled by Jewish immigrants from central Europe, some of them Holocaust survivors. Its lost landscape provides the emotional backbone of this book and the poet's slow-burning inspiration over the decades that followed. Scattered at first to a refugee camp in Lebanon, Taha and family later managed to return to Nazareth to register as "present absentees", a Kafkaesque bureaucratic classification for Palestinians living within the borders of Israel though not permitted to return to their prewar homes.

Taha is portrayed as an engaging autodidact whose day job was running a Nazareth souvenir shop "a Muslim who sells Christian trinkets to Jews". He became part of the effort to keep alive the flame of Palestinian Arabic literature in the wake of the "nakba". It was a small pond, cut off from what was left of Palestine in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and the wider Arab world, though one that bred remarkable talent in the shape of writers such as Samih al-Qasim, Rashid Hussein and Tawfiq Zayyad. Unlike them, Taha tended more to the personal, the homespun and the contemplative than the overtly political.

But struggling little magazines and poetry festivals organised by the Israeli Communist party overcame censorship, curfews and harassment to make literary creativity a form of "popular passive resistance". Rare meetings with sympathetic Jewish writers lapsed into embarrassed silence: though the Arabs learned Hebrew, the Jews, with the exception of a few native-speaking immigrants from Iraq, knew no Arabic.

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Hoffman tells the story of Taha Muhammad Ali, great Palestinian poet, writing about his life, poetry, and the culture he emerged from. All of the doubts I might have had disappeared after readi This just might be one of my favourite books ever. All of the doubts I might have had disappeared after reading the prelude pages. Her writing is so delicate, so rich in detail and encompassing at the same time, and simply — captivating. Taking in consideration the trust and the relationship Taha and Adina had developed over time before this book was to be made , this was just a perfect combination.

Hoffman also writes about her perspective when taking on this project, her views as a Jewish woman, as an Israeli citizen, her experience of life in Jerusalem and differences in relation to Palestinian lives. That fact itself is a big sign of hope for the Israeli-Palestinian story.

My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century

Taha's story is the story of melancholy and exuberance, the land and the memory, so individual and eeeply personal and so universal particularly for all Palestinians at the same time. Jun 28, Victoria rated it it was amazing. It's impossible to separate the presentation and subject of the book for a review, but five stars for the subject matter, which I found consistently revelatory and fascinating largely due to my ignorance about the establishment of Israel and its impact of those living there and because it has information that should be more widely known. And it's great fun to read despite some very lengthy excursions into history as well as the subject Taha Mohamaad Ali's poet friends and colleagues, whose sto It's impossible to separate the presentation and subject of the book for a review, but five stars for the subject matter, which I found consistently revelatory and fascinating largely due to my ignorance about the establishment of Israel and its impact of those living there and because it has information that should be more widely known.

And it's great fun to read despite some very lengthy excursions into history as well as the subject Taha Mohamaad Ali's poet friends and colleagues, whose stories are wirth knowing but one feels distracted, a problem the author Adina Hoffman seems to have been well aware of. I was deeply moved to see, while leaving through it after finishing reading, that it is dedicated to the poet's wife, simply "For Yusra" whose life also is well worth contemplating. The subtitle is enigmatic. Apr 18, Alan rated it it was amazing Shelves: nelc , israel-palestine , favorites.

One of the best books I've ever read: a beautiful and continually insightful synthesis of biography, history, and literary analysis. It is not just a book about Taha Muhammad Ali but about his lost village of Saffuriyya, his eventual home of Nazareth, the generations of his family, the other stars of Palestinian literature, and the culture and politics of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel as seen through the eyes of Taha.

Sep 15, Nrosenberg rated it it was amazing. Incredibly heartbreaking and not necessarily a fun book, but a must read. Jul 28, Steve Cran added it. Taha Muhammad Ali a poet from Nazareth, perhaps you have never heard of him or his story. Taha started out in the small largely unheard of village called Suffuria.

Taha Muhammad Ali

Literary Agent. He became part of the effort to keep alive the flame of Palestinian Arabic literature in the wake of the "nakba". Email Address. Your points will be added to your account once your order is shipped. Jessica Helfand— Not long ago, at an elegant garden party,… Continue reading Whether Jews and Gypsies in Europe, Arabs in Palestine, or Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan, millions of people suffered the destruction of familiar landmarks and the uprooting to a new landscape—emotional as much as physical—of emptiness and ruins.

A Palestinian village build on the biblical village Sephoris. It has been inhabited since Taha Muhammad Ali a poet from Nazareth, perhaps you have never heard of him or his story. It has been inhabited since Canaanite times and the people who dwelt there may well have been related to ancient Canaanites. Before Taha was born his mother and father had several children die during child birht. Most were males and the mother and father had named or at least tried to name them Taha.

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Finally this one survived. Taha always had good busines skills. He would convince a merchant to give him some eggs, usually on credit and at the end of the day after Taha had sold them he would pay back the farmer. He was in away the bread winner of the family. He later expanded into sellig candies and sodas. Village life was rather nice until world political winds finally blew in on his town.

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Once while tending the families sheep four Israeli war planes flew over his village and bombed it. The whole village pretty much fled and taha's family went to Lebanon. It was there that they lived in Tents but even their Taha's busines acumen came in handy. He ended up selling rations and was profitabl up to the point that while they were in Quarone they were able to rent an apartment. Later on the family would return to what is now called Israel.

The ISraeli never did allow the residents of Saffuria to return to their village. Instead many chose to live in Reina and other surrounding villages. For along time they were not permitted to own id and technically were not allowed inside of Israel.

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THose caught without IDs wold be expelled to Jordan. This happened to Taha one time and he just snuck back in.

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Eventually they were given ids but the palestinians in the North were subjet top conmsant curfew and travel restircitions. Up until they were living under Martial Law. THe Shin bety would often harrass poets and ohter intellectual members of the poetic resistance. Mahmoud Darwish later left as a result. For most of his life Taha ran a souvenir shop in Nazareth. Writing poetry and publsihing his works did not come until; later let us ssay he started getting big at around 57 years old.

As he got bigger he started traveling and people enjoyed his poetry. He was niether bitter about his past and his poetry was not the poetry of resistance. Rather it was down to Earth and human.

A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century: Don't Look Away by Forrest Gander | Poetry Foundation

THe Nakhba cause untold pain to many people. AMira Taha's intended had to remain in Lebanon. They never got married. THE residents of Saffuria got a fraction of the land they used to own. Dec 27, Leif rated it it was amazing. A book without equal: born of curiosity and bourne by what can only be described as a growing care and love for another human being expressed through unstinting conversations, capacious and delicate research, and thoughtful craft. What is advertised as a biography of a Palestinian poet by an American Israeli Jewish writer is more accurately read as a focused description of a family's life through the latter half of the twentieth century.

Two maps uneasily align here: the geographic space of a Pa A book without equal: born of curiosity and bourne by what can only be described as a growing care and love for another human being expressed through unstinting conversations, capacious and delicate research, and thoughtful craft. Two maps uneasily align here: the geographic space of a Palestinian village, Saffuriyya, and the narrative history of Taha Muhammad Ali's family before and after the disaster of that drove them to Lebanon and then, eventually, to Nazareth.

But these details are cold without Adina Hoffman's warmth for her subject and its contexts, and also without Taha Muhammad Ali's own poetic interventions and inventive responses to the many small opportunities opened by his life. It's a warm book, keenly written, and with remarkable depth: Hoffman interviews family members and Israeli ex-soldiers not just any ex-soldiers, of course; none other than Dov Yermiya , conducts research in Israeli army archives, listens to Imm Nizar, Taha's wife, describe recipes, and travels with her husband and Taha in the United States on poetry tours with others such as Israeli Jewish poet Aharon Shabtai.

A full book, then, with much to offer anyone. More personally, I'd say that if I had finished this yesterday I would have said it one of my favourite books of As it is, it sets the standard high indeed for all future books of