Kashua, Sayed 1975-
KASHUA, Sayed 1975-
(Sayid Kashu, Sayed Qashu)
PERSONAL: Born 1975, in Tira, Israel. Education: Attended Hebrew University.
ADDRESSES: Home—Palestinian Territories. Agent—Deborah Harris, Harris/Elon Agency, P.O. Box 8528, Jerusalem 91083, Israel.
CAREER: Journalist, c. 1995—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grinzane Cavour prize (Italy), for Dancing Arabs.
Va-yehi Boker, Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 2004.
Dancing Arabs, translated by Miriam Shlesinger, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Sayed Kashua was the subject of the documentary film Citizen K, directed by Dorit Zymbalist, that explores Kashua's life and experiences as an Arab Israeli. Kashua's novel Dancing Arabs also explores this topic, albeit in a fictionalized manner. Belonging to two diametrically opposed worlds, the protagonist of Kashua's story is unable to commit fully to either one. He is awarded a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem but ultimately fails to live up to his intellectual potential. Fearing persecution from fellow students because of his differences, the protagonist seeks to become transparent, to blend into Israeli society. "Kashua," stated Rebecca Stuhr in Library Journal, "describes Palestinians leading routine lives … in the midst of military conflict and [facing] futures that are anything but certain." Instead of succeeding intellectually, the author's main character drifts into daydreams of power: winning an election as the first non-Jew to become prime minister of Israel and bringing peace and understanding to the region, or joining a militant Islamic group and bringing death and destruction to the same area. The novel ends as the protagonist finds a job as a bartender, missing a chance at love with a Jewish graduate student, making a loveless marriage with an Arab nursing student, and fathering a baby daughter.
Critics felt that Kashua accurately portrays the gritty realities of life in the Palestinian territories. "Life, at novel's end," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "remains seedy, undirected, filled with sorrow, failure, and regret." "Nearly absurdist at moments, this is a chilling, convincing tale," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of Dancing Arabs. "As a portrait of a young man's drift into emotional no man's land," concluded Charles Wilson in the New York Times Book Review, "this novel has the feel of grim truth."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2004, Brendan Driscoll, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 1265.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 101.
Library Journal, May 15, 2004, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 114.
New York Times Book Review, May 16, 2004, Charles Wilson, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 2004, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 171.
Filmline Web site, http://www.filmline.tv/ (August 16, 2004), review of Citizen K.*