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On this week’s episode, host Marcela reads from Emile Habibi’s picaresque novel The Secret Life of Saeed The Pessopitmist, translated by Salma K Jayyussi and Trevor LeGassick. The Secret Life of Saeed spans twenty years and two wars (1948 and 1967) and is an account of the life of the Palestinian Arab population which remained in the State of Israel after the mass exodus following each war. Saeed is a comic hero, the luckless fool, who has been compared to Voltaire’s Candide and Hasek’s Good Soldier Svejk.

This is an exerpt from “Research on the Origins of the Pessoptimists”:

“When I alighted from the donkey, I found that I was taller than the military governor. I felt much relieved at being bigger than him without the help of the donkey’s legs. So I settled comfortably into a chair in the school they had converted into the governor’s headquarters. The blackboards were being used as Ping-Pong tables. There I sat, at ease, thanking God for making me taller than the military governor without the help of the donkey’s legs. That’s the way our family is and why we bear the name Pessoptimist.”

Habibi’s poetry was also featured on the podcast in September 2014.

The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist, by Emile Habiby, translated by Salma K Jayyusi and Trevor LeGassick. Interlink Books, 2003.

Le Trio Joubran – Majâz
Le Trio Joubran – Masar

Producer: Ariella Plachta
Technical producer: Tammy Goldenberg

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