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Vexing Resistance, Complicating Occupation: A Contrapuntal Reading of Sahar Khalifeh's "Wild Thorns" and David Grossman's "The Smile of the Lamb"

Philip Metres
College Literature
Vol. 37, No. 1, Embargoed Literature: Arabic (Winter, 2010), pp. 81-109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20642076
Page Count: 29
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Vexing Resistance, Complicating Occupation: A Contrapuntal Reading of Sahar Khalifeh's "Wild Thorns" and David Grossman's "The Smile of the Lamb"
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Abstract

This article examines two novels representing the fifth year of Israeli occupation of the West Bank (1972)—"Wild Thorns," written by (Palestinian) Sahar Khalifeh, and "The Smile of the Lamb," written by (Israeli) David Grossman—testing the possibilities and limits of Edward Said's notion of contrapuntal reading in the Israeli/Palestinian context. While both novels address primarily their own nation, both bridle against the limits of nationalism. "Wild Thorns" dramatizes the diversity of struggle within Palestinian society to resist military occupation, complicating Orientalist views of Palestinian society. By contrast, "The Smile of the Lamb" examines the psychological and moral damage of occupation to both Palestinians and Israelis. In tracking the relationship between an Israeli soldier in moral crisis and an Arab outcast grieving the death of his son, Grossman's novel opens up the possibility of cross-national identification in ways that echo and extend Khalifeh's novel.

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