A love affair—between Golda Meir and a Palestinian banker—set against a turning point in world history.
Beirut-born Nassib’s second novel (I Loved You For Your Voice, 2006) is another work of fictionalized biography set in the Middle East, this time involving Albert Pharaon, a wealthy married man living separately from his family, in Haifa, and “the pasionaria of Zionism,” i.e. Meir, known at the time as Myerson, the wife of a cellist and mother of two, but already a woman consumed by politics in a man’s world. The book is based, according to the foreword, on Pharaon’s account of the events, given to a favored niece still living in Cairo. Equal in intensity to Nassib’s debut, this story once again explores a man’s impossible love for a woman of international significance. The attraction between Pharaon and Meir—a force “stronger than they are”—begins in the late 1920s in a Palestine where the Jews, at the time fewer than ten percent of the population, have been promised a homeland. The passion between the lovers seems to mirror the unstoppable, irreconcilable political rift developing between the Palestinians and the Jews: “They will fight and tear each other apart. With their bodies, they will struggle to the death, a bitter, merciless struggle, and there is nothing, at any time, that can assuage them.” The secret liaison lasts into the early ’30s but concludes when Pharaon almost forces a confrontation at a concert in Haifa. Afterwards, the tide of politics takes over the story, with tragic scenes of Jewish immigrants arriving in 1934 and Palestinians fleeing in 1948.
Foregrounded by romance and a dream of unity, the novel is an elegy to lost possibilities.