Kashua, Sayed 1975–
Kashua, Sayed 1975–
(Sayid Kashu, Sayed Qashu)
Born 1975, in Tira, Israel. Education: Attended Hebrew University.
Home—Palestinian Territories. Agent—Deborah Harris, Harris/Elon Agency, P.O. Box 8528, 91083 Jerusalem, Israel.
Journalist, c. 1995—.
Grinzane Cavour prize (Italy), for Dancing Arabs.
Aravim Rokdim, Modan (Ben-Shemen, Israel), 2002, translation by Miriam Shlesinger published as Dancing Arabs, Grove Press/Black Cat (New York, NY), 2004.
Va-yehi Boker, Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 2004, translation by Miriam Shlesinger published as Let It Be Morning, Grove Press/Black Cat (New York, NY), 2006.
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."
Similar praise met the publication of Kashua's second novel, Let It Be Morning. The story, described by Library Journal contributor Rebecca Stuhr as "skilled and humane," follows events after a young Arab Israeli journalist decides to leave the frustrations of Tel Aviv to return to his native village. Here, though, he finds mostly boredom and stagnation—until the Israeli army suddenly besieges the village, cutting off its electricity, water, and communications. These conditions, unsurprisingly, bring out the worst in the inhabitants; at one point the village elders, hoping to appease the army, round up Arab workers from the occupied territories—a group that the villagers look down on—and turn them over to the soldiers. This episode, however, which Institute for Middle East Understanding Web site contributor Lena Khalaf Tuffaha described as "heart-rending and brilliantly written," fails to resolve the crisis and only worsens it.
Khalaf Tuffaha hailed Let It Be Morning as a "dark and deeply moving tale of a society on the brink of collapse." The novel, the reviewer went on to say, does justice to "a complex human and historic tragedy that is unfolding before our very eyes." Maya Jaggi, writing in the London Guardian, expressed similar admiration for the book, calling it a "riveting study of human values collapsing under inhuman conditions, with unsuitable messiahs, or ‘heroes of resistance,’ rising in the vacuum."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2004, Brendan Driscoll, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 1265.
Guardian (London, England), January 13, 2007, Maya Jaggi, "Border Crossings."
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 101; April 15, 2006, review of Let It Be Morning, p. 371.
Library Journal, May 15, 2004, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Dancing Arabs, p. 114; April 15, 2006, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Let It Be Morning, p. 66.
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; April 3, 2006, review of Let It Be Morning, p. 39.
School Library Journal, September, 2006, Jenny Gasset, review of Let It Be Morning, p. 246.
Filmline Web site,http://www.filmline.tv/ (August 16, 2004), review of Citizen K.