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Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life [Paperback]

Sari Nusseibeh
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

3 Sep 2009
These extraordinary memoirs give us a rare view into what the Arab-Israeli conflict has meant for one Palestinian family over the generations. Nusseibeh also interweaves his own story with that of the Palestinians as a people, always speaking his mind, and apportioning blame where he feels it due. Hated by extremists on both sides, his is a rare voice. "This autobiography carries the passion that might embolden ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to bypass the politicians and establish the peace that all but the armoured men desperately want." The Independent "Nusseibeh's formidable achievement leaves a drop of despair, because of how exceptional it is." New York Times

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Halban Publishers (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905559143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905559145
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 14.2 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This autobiography...carries the passion that might embolden ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to bypass the politicians and establish the peace that all but the armoured men desperately want. --The Independent

Nusseibeh's formidable achievement...leaves a drop of despair, because of how exceptional it is. --New York Tmes

About the Author

Sari Nusseibeh is President of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and a philosopher. Once a PLO representative in Jerusalem, he later co-founded The People's Voice advocating peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical memoir 22 April 2008
Sari Nusseibeh is one of the most prominent Palestinians alive today, an eminent academic, a man of reason and compassion, and the scion of an old and illustrious Jerusalem family. His life story is a microcosm of the events that have unfolded in the Middle East during the 20th and 21st centuries, which have blighted the existence of so many and had such a profound effect on the world as a whole.

Once Upon A Country starts and ends with a fairy tale of extraordinary power and pathos, and sets a lyrical tone that is maintained throughout, even when the events being described are of the grimmest kind. Nusseibeh has had a turbulent life - not of his own choosing - but he has emerged from it with his human values in tact. His love of his family, his strong sense of tradition and loyalty to others, his pragmatism and distaste for extremism, his devotion to his people and the cause of Palestinian nationalism are evident, as is his acceptance of the existence of the State of Israel and the need for a comprehensive peace between all the elements in the region.

Sari Nusseibeh mentions another lyrical memoir of Palestinian life, albeit from a Jewish perspective, Amos Oz' A Tale of Love and Darkness. I defy anyone who has read the latter not to see in Once Upon A Country its Palestinian equivalent. Both are essential reading for anyone who wishes to gain a balanced perspective of the history of the Israel-Palestine problem, and especially for those who want to achieve a balanced insight into the impact that the State of Israel has had on the Palestinian people.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once Upon a Country 8 Jan 2008
By Laser
One of the most interesting books that I have read recently. Highly recommended.

Nusseibeh has spent his life moving in and out of Palestinian political life. His commentary on the development of Palestinian politics (and Israeli and Jerusalemite) comes from perspective that is probably unique to himself - as a Palestinian, an academic, a pacifist, a member of one of Jerusalem's traditional ruling families, and also an (albeit reluctantly) influential member of the PLO.

Personally, I found my interest and enjoyment of the book increased in direct correlation with his involvement with the PLO and Palestinian politics in general. His account of the first intifada was probably the highlight of the book for me, but the sections on the peace process in its various incarnations are also very rewarding. Outside politics (if anything really is), I also thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on the reform of Al-Quds University.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential book. 20 Oct 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I used to teach a course on the politics of the Middle East. If I was doing so again I would make two books compulsory reading, Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness and Sari Nusseibeh's Once Upon a Country. Both show individuals who are deeply rooted in their respective cultures caught up in the maelstrom which saw the birth of modern Israel. Nusseibeh's family have been connected to Jerusalem for some 1,300 years and much of this memoir is an account of how his heritage has been fragmented by Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. Yet whatever the pressures on him from Israelis and radical Palestinians he has tried to keep a dialogue open centred not just on his own humanity but on the assumption that both sides stand to benefit from a fair peace. Philosophical (in both the academic and emotional sense), quirky at times, a real one-off he shows how it was and is possible to survive with ideals intact, despite everything that the croneyism of Arafat and the aggressive settlement policy of Sharon did to undermine them.
Both Judaism and Islam have made immense contributions to cultural and intellectual life over the centuries and perhaps the low point of the book comes with Sharon's attempt to drive his notorious concrete wall through the middle of the Palestinian university of which Nusseibeh was President. To her credit Condoleezza Rice finally put pressure on her Israeli allies to build the wall elsewhere (it was a pity she did not go further and stop it altogether). I hope she and the fellow members of her government have time to read this book, not only to understand how an ancient culture has been crushed but to absorb its central message that both sides will gain from a fair peace. It needs the courage of a Nusseibeh to keep the flame alive.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, hopeful and desperate 24 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating book which covers a vast swathe of history from a personal point of view. For readers with no interest in philosophy, hang in there through the more "wandering" chapters. The learning from a unique point of view of what always seems an impenetrable conflict to westerners is well worth it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful account of a tragedy 21 May 2007
This is a tragic tale, wonderfully narrated. It is the story of how a Western-oriented, liberal, secular-minded visionary had his hopes for peace frustrated at every turn by men who lacked his vision and empathy.

This account clearly illustrated how the Israeli government constantly undermined those forces within the Palestinians (such as the author) who were willing to negotiate. Israel ignored them, sidelined them and humiliated them; She is now reaping the whirlwind - Hamas has profited from the decline in support for moderates like Nusseibeh.

This is essential reading for all those seeking to understand how things have taken a turn for the worse in the past two decades. It also inspires hope, for with men like Nusseibeh around, there is always a chance for peace.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I am still reading this book; I'm nearly finished. It is an amazing book, because you find yourself learning a great deal about the palestinian problem and why peace is so... Read more
Published 2 months ago by M PAULA MARTINS PEREIRA
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read.
I loved this book. It explains so clearly the conflict in that country. So easy to read and brilliantly told.
Published 5 months ago by Lauretta Ridley
5.0 out of 5 stars a must to read
If you ever think you understand middle east politics read this first to realize nothing is never what it seems at face value in politics.
Published 7 months ago by mike walsh
1.0 out of 5 stars Painfully self-centered
I simply could not read past the self-centeredness of the author. I never got past the third chapter. I found the book and its author full of themselves and uninteresting.
Published 9 months ago by Haruspex 5
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I was looking forward to this read as it is way off my usual choices - oh dear - how boring - I tried so hard to get into the book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Alison Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars review of 'Once upon a country'
Exceeded expectations as it was a later edition of a book I had borrowed from someone else. It came in a couple of days.
Published 11 months ago by John Read
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, and a very different view
My view of the Middle East has been formed by the European media, though I have visited some parts and know that the perspective on the ground is very different. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative
This was generally a well written book, written from a personal perspective but nonetheless scholarly. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating and engrossing memoir
Sari Nusseibeh's account of his life, interwoven with more general reflections on the history and politics of Israel/Palestine, is utterly absorbing from beginning to end. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Sarah A. Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars personal history
Good insight into this troubled region. Does hope for peace stiil exist though, given the drift to the right in Israel?
Published 19 months ago by Chris
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