February's selection for the Levantine Bookgroup is an excellent memoir revealing the life story of Taha Muhammad Ali, poet and author of So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005, translated by Peter Cole. The Levantine BookGroup meets every last Wednesday of each month, and explores literature and non-fiction by writers from the Middle East/North Africa or about the region or its diaspora. The group is open to everyone.
"Adina Hoffman's biography of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali...is a rich tapestry of the personal, the literary and the political, skilfully woven by a sympathetic writer." —Ian Black, the Guardian
"Adina Hoffman has been relentless in her efforts to research the life of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, and she possesses a natural gift for storytelling. Her book describes the creation of a literary culture under the harshest circumstances. It is about the triumph of art and decency and memory against tremendous odds, and it breaks open a world about which I knew almost nothing. It's a terrific book, and readers will be drawn to its account of the triumph of the human spirit." —Karl Pohrt, Shaman Drum Bookshop, Ann Arbor, MI
Taha Muhammad Ai was little known until recently—certainly compared to giants such as Mahmoud Darwish or the novelist Emile Habiby. But his life, spanning his people's tragedy (and century, as in the book's subtitle), is captured in this beautiful memoir and brings him vividly to life, even as it illuminates the birth of Israel and its effect on the native Arab population. Read more about Taha Muhammad Aii.
"Anton Shammas, a more famous Israeli-Palestinian writer—a virtuoso of Hebrew prose and fellow Galilean, now living in exile—once quipped wisely that there was nothing quite so Israeli as an Israeli Arab. Hoffman's intense but often humorous book is a powerful reminder of the singularity and complexity of this most intractable of conflicts and of the ability of the human spirit to be creative in adversity." —Ian Black, the Guardian