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MonaTakieddineA1J!YUni on EtelAdnan's 'TheA.!

ab_Apocalypse'
Volume. 7, No. 34 (Winter 2001) $4.95
AliAlsouleman on the
Ferial Ghazoul on
Last Creative Years of
the Intellectual as
SadallahWannus
Cuitural Guardian
A Review & Record of ArClb Culture Clnd Arts
Copyright© 2001 AI JadidMagazine p.o. Box 24DD2, Los Angeles, CA 90024-0208, Tel: (818) 782-8462, Fax (818) 782-8535, E-Mail: aljadid@jovanet.com, www.aljadid.com
~ .
ergence"ol a Genre­
Reviewing Arab American Writers
by Judith Gabriel
.LJ&:U,U'-'AAtsStandardsofArabLiterary
into Translation
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Digitally signed by
Joseph H Zernik
DN: cn=Joseph H
Zernik, o, ou,
email=jz12345@earth
link.net, c=US
Location: La Verne,
California
Date: 2009.12.30
09:50:16 -08'00'
Yitzhaq Shami's Hebrew Fiction: Arabs and Jews Before Balfour
. .. THE wRiTiNG EvokES EARliER TiMES FREE of HosTiliTiES bETWEEN PAlESTiNiAN JEWS ANd ARAbs
AS SHAMi pORTRAYS liFE iN THE EARly dECAdES of THE 20TH CENTURY.
BY ISSA J. BOULLATA
HEBRON STORIES !
Mansur's love for his mare Hamamah, which he does
By Yitzhaq Shami
not want to sell but is stolen from him by trickery, is the
Introduction by Arnold I. Band.
setting of the first story located in Arabia and entitled
Edited by Moshe Lazar and Joseph Zernik.
"Hamamah: A Tale of the Arabian Desert." The second
Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos, 2000. xiv + 227 pp.
story, "Jum'ah the Simpleton," describes the dignity and
good services of tlie poor shepherd Jum'ah. He is
alienated from his Arab village in the Negev because,
Yitzhaq Shami (1888-1949) was a Jewish writer born
although admittedly simpleton, he refuses to accept
in Hebron, where he grew up among Palestinian Arabs in
ridicule. In "Father and Daughters," the third story, we
a small Sephardic community. As a child reared in a
see the indignation of Hakham Zvi Cohen of Damascus
religiously traditional family, he spoke Ladino with his
who returns home after seven years' absence, laden with
mother and Arabic with his father. In 1905-1907, he
gifts, only to be shocked by his scornful daughters who
abandoned ancestral Sephardic traditions and studied at
have become cabaret entertainers. The fourth story,
the Ezra school in Jerusalem, where he first wore Western
"Flight," traces the experience of Hakham Bekhor Kimhi
clothes, was exposed to European literature, and aligned
in a Jewish home for the aged in Jerusalem. The filth and
himself with Ashkenazic Jews and Zionists. Trained as a
lack of dignity force him to flee. "The Barren Wife"
teacher, he specialized in Arabic language, literature, and
describes the humiliation of a barren Jewish wife, Flor,
history; he taught at schools in Damascus, Hebron,
whose husband takes a second, younger wife to produce
Tiberias, Haifa, and elsewhere. He wrote poems and short
offspring. "Ransom" is the final short story and portrays
stories in Hebrew as well as articles on subjects like
the fearful novice Hakham Mercado Bekhar in Jerusalem.
modern Arabic literature and Jews in Damascus.
He botches his first circumcision on a baby terribly and
While his poetry and articles have not been
offers the poor Yemenite Jewish family money to call a
collected, his Hebrew stories are now presented for the
doctor, but the baby's father takes the money to buy
first time in English translation in "The Henry 1. Leir
winter clothes for his naked children.
Library of Sephardica: Texts and Studies," under general
...uz.:.lM'.Iilif&.
Though none of these stories offers a historical time
editor Moshe Lazar. This series is a continuing effort to
Author Yilzhaq Snami
frame, all internal clues point to the Ottoman period
redress the balance in the canon of standard authors of
before the First World War. There are horse-drawn
modern Hebrew literature and make itmore representative,
carriages instead of motorcars, no electric lights at night
for until the 1970s, it was dominated by Ashkenazic
but dim oil lamps, and the pace of life is slow. These
males.
elements hold true for Shami' s novel "The Vengeance of
"Hebron Stories" contains six short stories (pp. 3­
the Fathers" except that in this case he provided a note
113) and a short novel of 10 chapters (pp. 117-227).
explaining that "in the early 1900s, an incident like this
Divided equally between these two genres, the title
actually occurred," although he says he wrote it as a
"Hebron Stories" was apparently chosen to draw
novel some 25 years later.
attention to the author's origins and to his pacific
The incident in question takes place during the
writing. Although the fictional setting is not primarily
annual spring festival of Nabi Musa, when processions of
identifiable with Hebron (rocked today by Arab-Israeli
Muslim pilgrims from all over Palestine converge on the
vi()lf'nr.f') thf' writinp Pllrlip.r frpp of
I
teacher, he specialized in Arabic language, lIterature, and
,
j
describes the humiliation of a barren Jewish wife, Flor,
history; he taught at schools in Damascus, Hebron,
whose husband takes a second, younger wife to produce
Tiberias, Haifa, and elsewhere. He wrote poems and short
offspring. "Ransom" is the final short story and portrays
stories in Hebrew as well as articles on subjects like
modern Arabic literature and Jews in Damascus.
While his poetry and articles have not been
collected, his Hebrew stories are now presented for the
first time in English translation in "The Henry J. Leir
Library of Sephardica: Texts and Studies," under general
editor Moshe Lazar. This series is a continuing effort to
redress the balance in the canon of standard authors of
modern Hebrew literature and make it more representative,
for until the 1970s, it was dominated by Ashkenazic
males.
"Hebron Stories" contains six short stories (pp. 3­
113) and a short novel of 10 chapters (pp. 117-227).
Divided equally between these two genres, the title
"Hebron Stories" was apparently chosen to draw
attention to the author's origins and to ills pacific
writing. Although the fictional setting is not primarily
identifiable with Hebron (rocked today by Arab-Israeli
violence), the writing evokes earlier times free of
hostilities between Palestinian Jews and Arabs as Shami
portrays life in the early decades of the 20th century.
Of the six short stories, four feature Sephardic Jews
and the other two Arabs. The novel, entitled "The
Vengeance of the Fathers," is peopled wholly with Arabs;
writing about it in the back cover blurb, Anton Shammas
points out that it "is the only novel in modern Hebrew
literature whose characters, landscape, and narrative
voice are all Palestinian."
Both in his short stories and in his novel, Shami
writes in a leisurely style, unhurried by the modern
preoccupation with speed. He details every movement
minutely and describes every setting distinctly, leaving
out nothing that can add to the mood and atmosphere of
the narrative he is creating. His wide knowledge of
Sephardic life situations and of certain aspects of Arab
customs and attitudes permits him to dwell on the
feelings and inner thoughts of his characters as well as on
their outward appearance and behavior. Thus he recreates
realistic personalities of a time now gone by.
The English translations, though by different hands
(Israel Schen, Aubrey Hodes, Yael Lotan, and Richard
Flantz), reflect the richness of the original Hebrew in its
colorful vocabulary, sentence structure, and dilating
style.
Winter 2001, Issue No. 34 IIDlldld 20
Author Yitzhaq Snami
The story plots are mostly simple but they are
sustained by Shami's delivering them in his deliberate
pace. Readers who crave action in stories may be
frustrated by his style but those seeking ambience will be
rewarded and indeed moved by the deep human interest
of each story.
the fearful novice Hakham Mercado Bekhar in Jerusalem.
He botches his first circumcision on a baby terribly and
offers the poor Yemenite Jewish family money to call a
doctor, but the baby's father takes the money to buy
winter clothes for his naked children.
Though none of these stories offers a historical time
frame, all internal clues point to the Ottoman period
before the First World War. There are horse-drawn
carriages instead of motorcars, no electric lights at night
but dim oil lamps, and the pace of life is slow. These
elements hold true for Shami's novel "The Vengeance of
the Fathers" except that in this case he provided a note
explaining that "in the early 1900s, an incident like this
actually occurred," although he says he wrote it as a
novel some 25 years later.
The incident in question takes place during the
annual spring festival of Nabi Musa, when processions of
Muslim pilgrims from all over Palestine converge on the
shrine of Prophet Moses located about 25 miles east of
Jerusalem in the wilderness of the Jordan valley. Three
major groups travel from Jerusalem, Hebron, and Nablus
- each with its own leader and flag-bearer, drummers
and musicians, lancers and fencing champions. They
come on horeseback and on foot, men, women, and
children, with camels carrying their provisions for
several days. On their way to the shrine, they have games
and tournaments, fencing showmanship, singing and
dancing. (The British authorities forbade this religious
festival in the 1930s fearing the political and security
repercussions of the huge gathering of Palestinian
Muslims.)
Shami revels in the details and in describing the
events of this festival as he narrates the rising tension
between Abu al-Shawarib, leader of the Nablus group,
and Abu Faris, leader of the Hebron group. When they
meet in Jerusalem they are joined by the Jerusalem group
under the leadership of the Mufti and henceforth proceed
en masse to the Nabi Musa shrine. Abu Faris repeatedly
snubs Abu al-Shawarib, and their two groups are
dangerously polarized against each other. When Abu
Faris deceitfully takes the customary position of Abu al­
Shawarib in the ritual at the shrine, Abu al-Shawarib kills
Continued on page 2J
Sadallah Wannus
Continued from page /2
the first time. In 1994' "Tuqus al-lsharat
wa al-Tahoulat" Mumina/Almaza
associates individuality with freedom,
explaining her attitude towards collective
social values: "The first step in my
journey is to throw your norms behind my
back. I must liberate myself from your
rules and characterizations and
commandments in order to obtain my self.
I must transcend the fate of violation in
order to reclaim my body and to know
it..."
These two of individual
characterization and of a relative truth,
IN THE lAnER pHASE of His
wRiTiNG, HOWEVER, TH
NAnJRE of would bl
MORE RElATivE; TRUTH bECAM
QUESTioNAblE, ANd WANNUS
would AdMiT THE possibiliTy
of MulTiplE TRUTHS.
III
Ii
• II' I II it
ILlln b .1 Ill'" -.I·'l'.lhdll> 11111 W.1I11111
unique developmental relationship with
reality.
This new sensihility
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concerns and superficial matters which
were insubstantial and could be ignored.
At that time, I was mainly interested in the
consciousness of history. Therefore, I
mistakenly supposed that the concern for
the movement of history must supercede
the individual... so when' writing plays.I
always felt that I was outside my self."
In going thus beyond the political
and the social, Wann\ls directs his
fundamental questions towards the
ontological. By breakin& the taboos, he
created in the last five years of his life a
body of dramatic work which is both
politically and humanly more rich and
more significant than anything he had
written before.AI
Putting a Good Face
on Sectarianism
Continllcd from page 14
sovclI:ignty would benefit Lebanon in the
long run.
It was the insistence on a flawed
continuity of national institutions, namely
the State, that made up the formidable
arsenal in the Vatican's "damage control"
operation in Lebanon, Ms. Dagher says.
Thorny battles over sovereignty and
"national identity" would have to be
al n Inter dnte. Tn light of current
polilicul I • III III I .. hafllln. Induding
li'llillllC P"ltJ i'Ii'C1t "ill'II" 1
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and its operatives may well turn OuI to
have been far-sighted in their strategy.
For all its controversies, "Bring Down
till Will" IIlllth "1111'111 111111111111111111
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The Arab Intellectual
Continued from page J3
threshold on which we can admit our
vulnerability ... like the narrator in
"Season of Migration to the North" who
lies engulfed by water and on the verge of
drowning but manages the indispensable
and minimal gesture of articulating the
vital word: "HELP!" We too should admit
if not our total failure then at least our
vulnerability. We should seek help not only
through conference therapy, but through
experimental and collective projects as
well. Words - important as they may be
- cannot replace praxis, praxis cannot
be programmed. It can only be ventured in
the here and now.AI
"Circles of Fear"
Cantil/lied from page /7
influenced tw; political thought
throughout his life, Altel hIgh school, his
education was inlt" rllpll:d for 7 years due
to his father's I.'arly dl,'alh. Loter, he sought
to complement IllS education with
comprehcnslve reading ofArabic literature
and Iheology. starting with Taha Hussein
and AI-Akaad to Sayyed Qutub,
Mohammad Hussein Haykal, and Nazmi
Louqa. In 1972, he graduated from Cairo
University's Arabic Literature deparlml,'nt
and has since published several studies on
AI MlI't,llllah and Sill H,IIl. In I'N5, a Cairo
llltlli OJ d!:J ru led lor a ban on his book
Majhoum An-Nas [The Meaning of the
Quranic Text], declared him an infidel, and
invalidmed his marriage 10 his Muslim wife.
Shmlly lhl "tlll'l lind upon hb
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II Ii v ii
Yitzhaq Shami's
Hebrew Fiction
Continued from page 20
him and runs away into the wilderness. He
ends up in Cairo, where he foolishly
spends money, becomes addicted to
hashish, and suffers long bouts of
depression. He sees disturbing visions and
decides to return to Palestine to seek the
pardon of the Hebronites and the Prophets
buried in Hebron - Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, whose flag he had desecrated by
tearing it at the shrine of Prophet Moses
and killing its bearer. The Hebronites
notice Abu al-Shawarib as he descends
into the burial cave of the three Patriarchs
under their mosque in Hebron and witness
in terror when he is suddenly struck dead
by the vengeance of the Fathers.
Shami makes many references to
Jewish and Muslim religious rituals and
social customs. He is understandably
sometimes less knowledgeable about the
latter. His brief description of the Muslim
pilgrimage to Mecca, for example, misses
its meaning and he is completely wrong
when he refers to "the grave of the Prophet
in Mecca" (p. 118), since of course the
Prophet's tomb is in Medina. Although
his fiction has documentary value, it
should be read as art, and as such it is quite
interesting Ikspitc being period fiction.AI
ACritical Narrative ofHope
Continued from page J7
J lis polycentric paradigm of progressive,
\ II llllil'lIl cullures engaging with each
111111 1'1 Ii w\'lcoll1e ethical alternative to
1111 III1IPlli1il wllIld being crafted by
fill I I, .11\ CUillOl\IIC Interests.AI