Acclaimed novelist Sayed Kashua, the creator of the groundbreaking Israeli sitcom, Arab Labor,” has been widely praised for his literary eye and deadpan wit. His new novel is considered internationally to be his most accomplished and entertaining work yet.
Winner of the prestigious Bernstein Award, Second Person Singular centers on an ambitious lawyer who is considered one of the best Arab criminal attorneys in Jerusalem. He has a thriving practice in the Jewish part of town, a large house, speaks perfect Hebrew, and is in love with his wife and two young children. One day at a used bookstore, he picks up a copy of Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata, and inside finds a love letter, in Arabic, in his wife’s handwriting. Consumed with suspicion and jealousy, the lawyer hunts for the book’s previous owner a man named Yonatan pulling at the strings that hold all their lives together.
With enormous emotional power, and a keen sense of the absurd, Kashua spins a tale of love and betrayal, honesty and artifice, and questions whether it is possible to truly reinvent ourselves. Second Person Singular is a deliciously complex psychological mystery and a searing dissection of the individuals that comprise a divided society.
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Sayed Kashua was born in 1975 and is the author of the novels Dancing Arabs and Let It Be Morning, which was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Kashua writes a weekly column for Haaretz and is a writer and the creator of Arab Labor, one of Israel's most popular sitcoms. He lives in Jerusalem with his family.Review:
"Kashua’s parable deftly examines universal themes of isolation vs. assimilation. A worthy contribution to the increasingly popular works coming out of the Middle East." Library Journal
"This novel illuminates just how fluid identity can be, even or especially amid the Arab-Israeli tension of Jerusalem . . . A compelling two-sided narrative . . . [Kashua] has sharp insights on the assumptions made about race, religion, ethnicity, and class that shape Israeli identity." Publishers Weekly
"[Kashua’s] dry wit shines . . . with each of the main characters offering windows into the prejudices and longings of Arabs and Jews . . . The themes are universal in a world in which every culture, it seems, has an other’ against which to play out prejudice, and feelings of supremacy." Los Angeles Times
"At a time when Israeli attitudes toward Arabs seem to be hardening, Kashua’s popularity is especially noteworthy . . . Kashua’s protagonists struggle, often comically, with the tension of being both citizens of Israel and the kin of Israel’s enemies. They usually end up encountering ignorance and bigotry on both sides of the divide, making his narratives more nuanced than some of the other Arabs writing about the conflict." Newsweek
"Powerful . . . Kashua shows us the underside of success, with clear-eyed insight into an Israeli society that is becoming ever more tainted by discrimination based on class and money." Haaretz
"Kashua’s writing and insight serve to translate several different, and conflicting, realities at once . . . Kashua’s work captures the unique and often painful situation of Israel’s Arab citizens, while also opening a window for the non-Arab reader to better understand this dilemma." Tablet
"Second Person Singular triumphs as a tragicomedy composed of two suspensefully intertwined stories tracing the lives of two unnamed Arab protagonists, illuminating their fraught condition as insiders and outsiders and their painful struggle to create a life of meaning . . . Kashua’s razor-sharp wit and irony are on full display . . . [This] is storytelling of the highest order." Jewish Daily Forward
"[This] story is one of loneliness and reinvention, also offering an uncommon view of Israeli society. Kashua narrates powerfully, with careful attention to detail." The Jewish Week
"Kashua presents Israel with a mirror that inverts the dominant story of Jewish marginalization. Here it is Arabs who carry the burden of alienation that is so familiar from Jewish existence in the diaspora." J Weekly
"[Kashua] has a gift for taking the small absurdities of everyday existence and the comic humiliations of family life, themselves served up with self-effacing deadpan humor, and making them comment on the bigger, often darker, contradictions of his life and the two cultures in which he lives." Jewish Review of Books
"If you were to ask Sayed Kashua about his new, best-selling book, Second Person, he’d say it’s 'a satire disguised as a cheap melodrama.' But, of course, you shouldn’t take his word for it. As intimated by its name, Second Person is a story of identity . . . [it] cunningly follows two Israeli Arabs, a lawyer and a young social worker. Both have renounced their village heritage, moved to Jerusalem and are now trying to reconcile what they were born as with what they wish to be." Jerusalem Post
"[Kashua’s] work contains an implicit political message one of coexistence, curiosity and cultural ambiguity . . . [Second Person Singular] is a kind of existential mystery, probing for answers about how one fashions a sense of self under excruciating political and social conditions. . . . His work is not only aesthetically satisfying; in what it represents and the humane point of view it expresses, it has the feeling of something essential." The National
"Second Person Singular is many things: a psychological mystery reminiscent of Nabokov; a touching examination of what it means to be Arab in a Jewish state . . . a family comedy that involves all sorts of delusions and secrets and lies; a family tragedy about a young, paralyzed, Jewish man; and, finally, a triumphant escape from one identity into another . . . Kashua is an unusually ambitious and gifted writer." The Arts Fuse
"[Second Person Singular] resonates with all of us, all strangers and The Other at one time or another in our lives . . . A must-read." The New World Review
"Sayed Kashua is a brilliant, funny, humane writer who effortlessly overturns any and all preconceptions about the Middle East. God, I love him." Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
"In his newest novel, Kashua explores what it means to be a Palestinian and an Israeli; a father and a working man. The preoccupations of Second Person Singular strike me as adult preoccupations, ones many readers will relate to. Kashua has long been seen as Larry David meets Edward Said, but in this novel, he comes into his own. Incomparable." Randa Jarrar, author of A Map of Home
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