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My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century Paperback – 6 Apr 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (6 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164275
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.9 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,074,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'A rich tapestry of the personal, the literary and the political, skillfully woven by a sympathetic writer... 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.' The Guardian. 'Veering between biography, history, journalism and memoir, this painstakingly researched work is a human-scale picture of the generally under-reported history of the Palestinians in Israel as well as an accessible introduction to their poetry... Ms Hoffman's book is unpretentious, principled and utterly charming.' The Economist. 'Adina Hoffman's writing is historical magic... A series of brilliantly told and searing stories, this is at once a page-turner and a book to be savored.' Maria Rosa Menocal, author of 'The Ornament of the World'. --The Guardian, The Economist, Maria Rosa Menocal


"Veering between biography, history, journalism and memoir, this painstakingly researched work is ... unpretentious, principled and utterly charming."
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Adina Hoffman's book explores the life and times of Palestinian poet, Taha Muhammad Ali who lived through the establishment of the State of Israel. What makes her book unique is the quality of her research, the shrewdness of the questions asked. Not only has she developed a deep understanding of the poet's work, mentality and background but she has also endorsed (or refuted) every statement by reading the Israeli archives. Inevitably profoundly moving, this book never lapses into hysteria or manipulates the reader into pity. The rejection of the United Nations' original resolution to divide the land provokes the deepest regret. What an opportunity lost! And how, one wonders was the wise advice of Martin Buber and Rabbi Judah Magnes to choose the bi-national option so easily ignored?

AS one reads, one shares pain which is a direct consequence of this early political and moral blindness. And then, one longs to read the poet's works.

This book is convincing and deeply thoughtful and the author deserves much thanks.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9af8b72c) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99fea3fc) out of 5 stars Palestine and Israel since the 1930s through a poet's life 29 Mar. 2009
By P. Rose - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You might think that a biography of a poet who writes in Arabic of whom you've never heard is not a book you need to read. But in the case of "MY Happiness . . ." you'd be wrong. That's because this is, in addition to being a satisfying biography of one man, the best introduction I can think of to Palestinian and Israeli history since the 1930s. With an astounding command of documents in at least three languages (Arabic, Hebrew, English) in archives all over the world, and based on interviews with both Palestinian refugees and the Israeli soldiers who ousted them from their homes, Adina Hoffman has pieced together an immensely convincing and refreshingly unbiased account of how a place changed from being the homeland of one people to the homeland of another. It is so specific, so filled with detail and first-hand accounts that it reads more like a novel than a biography. Taha Muhammad Ali himself is an immensely likable if unlikely poet, and Hoffman resists the impulse, endemic to literary biography, of trying to convince us her subject is "major." She is content to convince us of his interest as a poet, his greatness as a human being, and the complexity of his fate. Adina Hoffman lives in Jerusalem and, with her husband, a translator and poet, runs a small press that publishes poetry from the Middle East. Her own writing is wonderful.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99fea450) out of 5 stars Gorgeous and moving book 18 Jun. 2009
By AK - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the poet whose life and times she evokes, Hoffman is interested in the human side of things: the touch and texture of places to which neither modern-day Israelis nor the poet himself can return; the intricate delicacies of human interaction that make the poet, his family and their history the worthy subjects of such a meticulously researched biography. Imbricating sources which range from Israeli military documents to old 1930s newspaper microfilm to records kept by the British to local literary journals to oral histories shared by Palestinians, Hoffman has performed painstakingly thorough and balanced research on a life and times-- this is no mere biographical sketch of a single poet-- which is edifying and inspiring at once. Without a hint of cliche or the kind of demonizing of either side that are all too common in narratives from this part of the world, Hoffman achieves in her book exactly what has made American audiences of all stripes stand mesmerized by the poet, Taha Muhammad Ali. Together with Muhammad Ali's poetry (Never Mind, published by Ibis Editions, and So What, Copper Canyon Press), this book should be read by anyone who wants to feel (and not merely hear in sound-bytes) this part of the world, from up close.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a3aab64) out of 5 stars Remarkable Subject, Remarkable Author 20 Jun. 2009
By Clio - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved reading this gracefully written book. A traditional art form - the life and times biography - at its best. With wisdom, grace and clarity, Adina Hoffman introduces her readers to the lived experiences of an individual man, and also the people -- Palestinians and Israelis -- who surrounded him, in tormented times. I felt introduced to a world I had not previously known. Tucked into the political story is a subtle literary history of Palestinian poetry that opens up new cultural understandings. More, my comprehension of the tragedies of Israel/Palestine has been sharpened by these pages; I predict that "My Happiness..." will make readers across the political spectrum stop in their tracks and reconsider some of their assumptions. This is an eloquent book that makes an ethical difference.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99fea6d8) out of 5 stars A Probing Portrait of a Palestinian Poet and His Life 2 July 2009
By john&lucia - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Adina Hoffman has written an extraordinary book. Its presentation of Palestinian poet Taha Ali Muhammad is vivid, thoughtful, and incisive. It is filled with subtle understandings of a person and his history, from village life to his intellectual context. Adina takes us deep into the Palestinian village of Taha's childhood. We follow the poet, steeped in the ancient oral culture of his people as he first encounters the written word as a boy; a magically drawn portrait. From this exquisite encounter, Taha takes a sustaining portion into the years ahead, of exile in his own country. It is an important part of a story in which written and spoken accounts of the same events diverge so greatly. Adina does both extensive interviews and digging into the written record. She is unflinching in her search to understand what happened when one people came to establish a homeland and encountered another already calling that place home. Adina delves into the complexity of the Middle East while capturing the essential humaneness of Taha's writing. For a deeper understanding of this as yet to be known literature and this area of the world, make time to read this remarkable book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99fea510) out of 5 stars Highly recommended 25 May 2011
By Joan Jacobson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the biography of a Muslim poet who makes his living selling Christian trinkets to Jews. It illuminates our American misunderstanding of the history of Israel and Palestine in a manner that is accessible, even-handed and fascinating. Unless you are a poet or English teacher, you may find yourself skimming the sections on poetry, but no matter, this is a book well worth reading.
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