The Story of the people
Palestinians were divided into two halves: one who lived inside and one who were kicked or fled out. No matter how hard we try to describe the Palestinian people, we wont be able. Simple because it’s a pessoptimist people who lived a bitter and a tragic reality in a dark since of comedy.
The Pessoptimist by Emile Habibi describes the Palestinian reality. This is one of the most important and influential novels that have documented the history of Palestine in dark comedy and sarcasm. The Pessoptimist redefines your concept of a hero. Furthermore, its one of the greatest symbolic novels that helped the reader to know what happened during Al Nakba and before 1967 . One of The Pessoptimist’s greatest significance is the escape. The novel’s events revolves around its main character, its hero Saeed the pessoptimist. The word “Pessoptimist” is an adjective combined from two other adjectives; The Pessimist and the Optimist. Saeed is a naive, coward comic persona. He came back to Palestine from Lebanon after Nakba to narrate his story under the rule of Israel. At first, the story of Saeed may look as a personal and an individual story of a specific person, but then you conclude that its a symbol for a collective story; the story of the people.
The author’s choice of Saeed’s name was not accidental; but a well chosen name. Saeed’s name is not just a name, its the characteristic of all Palestinians; the juxtaposition between pessimism and optimism indicates the personalities of Palestinians.
I saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti is a Palestinian novel that describes the personal experience of the author. His big comeback from exile to his village Der Ghassana. I saw Ramallah documents the contemporary history of Palestine. It documents coming back from exile, on the other hand The Pessoptimist examined the old history; the Nakba. As mentioned before, one of The Pessoptimist’s great significance is the examination of escape; running away from home. But Mourid Barghouti narrates his novel and the history of Palestine through his personal experience and his bibliography. I saw Ramallah is not a political novel, but it does include some major life changing political events through history. Some of the greatest things about this novel are the use of language and the writing style. Wherein, the author uses the Palestinian slang, which made the relationship between the author and the novel, the novel and the public more worthy. I saw Ramallah illustrates the physical relationship between the author and the land, the connection between them and how miserable is exile. In the novel, the author explains how much he hated buying olive oil when he was in exile, simply because if he was at home; in Der Ghassana, he wouldn’t have to buy olive oil; they made it from olive trees in the village. In I saw Ramallah, the reader can sense the divine relationship between the author and the land. Barghouti thought of Palestine as a holy icon. By contrast, his feelings were not like his reality. His reality was checking in and out of hotels, in this novel hotels are a symbol for an alarm clock. An alarm that always rings and reminds the author that this is not his home, this is not where he is supposed to be. As described in the novel “The hotel taught me not to hold on to place, it tamed me to not accept the idea of leaving ” (I saw Ramallah, P. 59).
I saw Ramallah fully examined Palestine through its land, cities, landscape and the author’s relationship to them. On the opposite side The Pessoptimist did not show that side of the Palestinian history, it focused more on the events of displacement, Nakba, escape and exile through an individual experience that represented the experience of all Palestinians; the story of the people, when he said” Others those are me” and when he said “I am the others I am peerless” (The Pessoptimist, P. 14). Through these quotes Emile Habibi deleted the line between individuality and collectivism, as if he’s saying “I am the people; I am Palestine” with the stripping of humanity. One of the things that makes you fall in love with The Pessoptimist is its sarcasm and symbolism. For instance, The Pessoptimist chooses the names of its characters with quite care. The names of the characters are symbols, they are not coincidental, for a start Saeed’s name is a symbol as discussed above, also the name of Saeed’s lover “Youad” which means the return. Wherein, Youad as its meaning keeps coming back through the novel. she keeps returning and does not leave Saeed alone. Youad is the love of Saeed, her constant showing and comebacks through the novel is a symbol for RETURN. The return of the Palestinian people, she was mentioned twice after Nakba and once after 1967 (Naksa: The Setback). Emile Habibi uses this point to give the Palestinians hope, the hope of returning to ones land. Another name the holds much significance is Bakya, which means staying, Bakya was Saed’s wife. Although her name implies that she is staying and she’s not going anywhere, her actual significance relies in her escape and leaving. This may be interpreted as the ones who faked holding on and said they wont leave are exactly the ones who left.
The opening of The Pessoptimist is quite controversial. As in, from the beginning Emile Habibi stated his opinion and his main claim to the people of Palestine through the poem of Samih Al Qasim “The Quran of death and Jasmine”. When the poet said “Write to yourselves the letters you crave”, Emile Habibi used this as his slogan. Emile Habibi preached the Palestinian people not to want anything from anyone, not to wait for anyone to free them or to rescue them. Habibi emphasized the work of the Palestinians themselves to their own freedom and their own rescue. He yelled through the poem “You rescue yourself, you revolt, you start your own revolution don’t wait for anyone to rescue you”. These indications from The Pessoptimist relate us to another hero, Zakarya from the political comic character in Ziad Al Rahbani’s play Nazzel EL Sorour. Zakarya is highly connected to Saeed, they are both comic sarcastic characters that illustrated the situation of their communities during civil war, injustice, or occupation. Both Saed and Zakarya were defeatist characters. Both of them were surrenders, they both suffered from a bitter reality but they both refused to change. They never did anything to change their fates because they were so afraid. They both suffered from injustice, occupation and civil war. Not only they were afraid of change, but when an outside force came for their rescue, to force them to revolt they manipulated the situation so they don’t do the first steps. They did not have the guts to start, they got accustomed to fear.
Finally, it is hard to explain the story of the people but all the literature and art works that has been used in this article gave us a side of the story. they are faces to the same coin; The Palestinian People coin. They describe the same coin in either a comic, tragic, sarcastic or an individual way. We can only praise these works of arts and the msters behind them: Emile Habibi, Mourid Barghouti and Ziad Al Rahbani for giving us a closer look into our history, our reality, our society and the story of our people.