REFUGE by Sami Michael


Email this review


A timely but ambivalent tale of Jews and Arabs drawn together by left-wing politics in modern-day Israel. Marduch, Party member and Jewish-born exile from Iraq, lives with his wife Shula and their retarded son. Not certain of a role in life, obsessed with the past, Marduch remains a permanent exile within his adoptive country--only his maid remains an outsider for having married an Arab. Marduch, in fact, seems to be at the center of a society of exiles, including his friend the Arab poet Fatkhi. When Fatkhi and his boorish cousin Wasfy drive over to the West Bank against curfew law, Fatkhi is mistaken for a Jew and spurned by fellow Palestinians. Later, when external Arab forces (never clearly defined here) attack Israel, Fatkhi takes refuge in Marduch's home, fearing routine Israeli detention. A simple analogy emerges from the scenario: Fatkhi becomes a guest under the sufferance of Marduch just as the Palestinians are ""guests"" of the state. Making the allegory cruder yet is the author's inability to grant evenhanded treatment to his Arab characters: Wasfy is mired in lust and gluttony; PLO members extort money through a mafia-like street operation; and Fatkhi, the handsome enemy within, attempts to seduce Marduch's wife while Marduch is off defending his country. A good mix to start, but Michael insists on boiling this one down to a predictable and rather nasty consistency.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0827603088
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society