NISANIT by Fadia Faqir


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An impassioned first novel about the current Arab-Israeli conflict, from Jordanian-born and British-educated Faqir, which tries to be fair, although, more often than not, the characters' uncompromising partisanship subvert this intention. Set on the West Bank and in Jordan, the story is told by three characters: Shadced, the Palestinian guerrilla fighter; David, his Israeli interrogator; and Eman, his Arab girl-friend, whose father was executed for his political activities in the ""Democratic State of Ishmael."" The essential story takes place over a year in which Shadeed meets and falls in love with Eman; takes part in an attack on a group of Israeli settlers; is betrayed and captured; and is interrogated by David, who has perfected his methods of extracting information from recalcitrant prisoners. David, a survivor of Auschwitz and haunted by the past, is increasingly affected by Shadeed's continued resistance. David, for all his physical strength, is also apparently sterile. The progress of David's interrogation is interrupted by a series of flashbacks that tell Eman's story--from a childhood blighted by her father's political activities to an equally desolate womanhood. Shadeed never gives David the information he wants, but unknown to Eman, in resisting the torture he goes mad. And there it ends: Shadeed mad; Eman doomed; and David uneasy. David pities Shadeed, would like to leave his job, but after all these years his wife is finally pregnant--he'll need more money--so he accepts a promotion. A bleak ending to an understandably bleak tale. Faqix's clear and vivid writing is appealing, but her characters--though their anger and grief are justified--too often express their individual passion as political polemic. They end up sounding like sloganeers for their cause--didactic, closeminded, and, sadly, not credible.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1990
Publisher: Penguin