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This paper was part of the 2013-2014 Penn Humanities Forum on Violence. Find out more at


Palestinian author Emile Habibi's 1974 novel, The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptomist, endures as both a political and an artistic milestone in the legacy of modern Arabic literature. A masterpiece of ironic narrative and social satire, Habibi's unconventional novel powerfully represents the absurdity of the post-1948 Palestinian experience defined by a nationalism that views them as antithetical. At once sobering and farcical, Habibi's novel illustrates the "open tragedy" of the Zionist project as seen by its victims. Through the tightly wound paradoxes of alienation, affiliation, imagination, and loss which both drive and haunt the novel, I examine contemporary importance of this text as a "subaltern" narrative to represent an enduring and defiant Palestinian voice.



Date Posted: 17 November 2016