Whether you read Sayed Kashua’s new Native: Dispatches from Israeli-Palestinian Life or Sayed Kashua’s new Native: Dispatches from Palestinian-Israeli Life depends on whether you buy books printed in the US or the UK:
The jackets, which are otherwise largely identical (my UK edition also uses the Ayelet Waldman quote), might mean nothing, or might underline the tense grounds in which Kashua stakes his comedic claim.
It is a question that the tragicomic Pessoptimist — written by the great comic novelist Emile Habibi (1922-1996) — might have wondered over as well.
As I wrote at Qantara, reading Native, in readable translation by Ralph Mandel, “is like binge-watching a laugh-out-loud, buffoonish TV sitcom that offers surprisingly astute social criticism.”
Kashua has experience as a TV writer, and brings all that to bear in these selected columns, written for Haaretz between 2006-2014.
This doesn’t do it justice, but:
He also gives a drolly funny account of going to report that his car has been egged, then his screens ripped and egged, both presumably hate crimes. Police attitudes shift dramatically after Kashua mentions that he′s a journalist with Haaretz. The officer who ultimately takes his report is helpful and kind, insisting that Kashua call for assistance at any time. Meanwhile, on TV, a football match has just finished:
″′Thank you,′ I said, and shook his [the policeman′s] hand. We both looked at the celebrations on the television screen. The fans and players of the victorious team from the country′s capital were celebrating the winning of the cup, dancing and singing ′Death to the Arabs! Death to the Arabs!′″
For those who are a fan of laugh-out-loud Palestinian books, others include Suad Amiry’s Sharon and My Mother-in-Law : Ramallah Diaries and her Nothing to Lose but Your Life : An 18-Hour Journey with Murad.