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Volume 54, Number 7 · April 26, 2007
Hard Truth About Palestine
By Amos Elon
Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life
by Sari Nusseibeh, with Anthony David
Farrar, Straus and Giroux,542 pp., $27.50
Sari Nusseibeh's chronicle of a life 'lived in a broken and violated land'
reads at times like an unfinished nineteenth-century novel. In it there
are villains and victims, patriots and fools, war and peace, betrayal and
corruption, and an inevitable romance. We don't know how the story will
end. The book dramatizes recent history in Palestine as few others have
done. It begins forty years ago in 1967, during a war rashly named after
the Six Days of Creation. The Israeli army conquers East Jerusalem, the
city where Sari Nusseibeh's family is said to have lived for more than
thirteen centuries. Two years later at Oxford he falls in love with
another student, Lucy Austin, the tall, strikingly good-looking,
fair-haired daughter of the famous Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin. The
young lover ponders how he could possibly ask her to follow him to a
war-scarred city in one of the most volatile corners of the world, with
two major wars in its recent history and Arab leaders worldwide calling
for a third. It seems preposterous even to try. He composes a romantic
fairy tale instead. It works.
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