A Fairy Tale: Emile Habibi’s “Saraya, The Ogre’s Daughter”


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Part memoir, part fairy tale, and part political commentary and history, Emile Habibi’s Saraya, The Ogre’s Daughter: A Palestinian Fairy Tale opens on a moonless night in the summer of 1983, on a boulder off the shore of what was once al-Zeeb, a Palestinian village north of Akko. The narrator glimpses a mysterious female figure who saves him from death, and in the story that follows, he tries to discover who she is. He calls her ‘Saraya,’ the flesh-and-blood beloved of his childhood, the daughter his uncle Ibrahim adopted, who shares a name with a fairy tale heroine who was captured by an ogre.

Host Marcela Sulak reads three excerpts from Habibi’s novel on today’s episode, including this passage that refers to the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem:

“I walked the Via Dolorosa.

A hidden fear in my chest whispered that there was no use in my waiting for the three-ringed cane to return; I would lose my soul forever. And if I sat waiting for it, a stage of my present life would come to an end without my going back to the beginning of the road that had led me to my first encounter with Saraya…”

Text:
Saraya, The Ogre’s Daughter: A Palestinian Fairy Tale, by Emile Habibi. Translated by Peter Theroux. Ibis Editions, 2006.

Music:
Philip Glass – Island
Philip Glass – Closing
Philip Glass – Metamorphosis Two

Previous podcasts on Emile Habiby:
Emile Habibi: The ‘Pessoptimist’ who Worked for Coexistence
“The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist”

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