Sayed Kashua’s new book Native: Dispatches From an Israeli-Palestinian Life is a collection of reflections written between 2006 and the summer of 2014, when Kashua left Israel and moved to the US to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Native was originally published in Hebrew as Ben Ha’aretz. As Adam Kirsch writes, this “title that contains an untranslatable pun. Literally, it means “son of the land,” and coming from Kashua, an Arab Israeli who writes in Hebrew, it implies a claim to nativeness that carries a distinct political charge.”
Kashua is speaking at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Library on the 16th of February about the new book. He’s also been speaking about living in the US, while still writing his columns in Haaretz:
“I think because of the distance, I am writing more directly political” columns, he said. “But I also write about being in exile [albeit self-imposed] and about missing home.”
In an interview with NPR’s Kelly McEvers, Kashua makes the same point about the difference between writing about the situation while living in Israel and while living in the US.
…it’s more politically direct. Probably also due to the political situation getting just worse and more extreme, but also this distance and this sadness of this feeling that I gave up – that I surrendered, that I felt that I lost my small war. So the whole column is different than the columns that I used to write back home, back in Jerusalem.
In his most recent column in Haaretz, Kashua reflects on his conflicted feelings about being away from home, characteristically channelling that nostalgia and homesickness into the ironic question, “why have I become a Zionist lately?”
Why have phrases from the matriculation exam like “My heart is in the east and I am in the farthest west,” which never spoke to me before, started moving me to tears? How is it that I’ve stopped distinguishing between Bialik and Mahmoud Darwish?
Meanwhile, Kashua’s series “The Writer,” playing in the Berlin Film Festival as part of its Special programme of TV dramas, has been described as ” illustrat[ing] how much the TV world has changed”
The Sayed Kashua dramedy looks at the life of an Israeli Arab, living, Kashua says, “in constant confusion as a minority in the Jewish state.” Even the show’s Israeli network, Kashua says, was scared of commissioning a series “so close to reality, it hurt.”
ETA: Kashua speaking about Native at 92nd Street Y.
In other news from the festival, Naguib Mahfouz’s “Wedding Song,” is apparently in preproduction to be adapted into an Arab TV series for Ramadan.