The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist – Arab Authors {Review}

ACraftyArab The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist - Arab Authors {Book Club}

Last night we held our Arabic authors book club, where we gathering to discuss a book we had all previously picked as a group and read since the last time we met, six weeks ago.

We gathered in the Newcastle foothills of Bellevue and while we had an amazing view, the rain, fog and clouds of the Northwest wouldn’t let us see any of it.


Looking north towards Lake Sammamish.

We meet to discuss The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist: by Emile Habibi. The book depicts the life of an Palestinian, employing black humor and satire, living in Israel. It was based on the traditional anti-hero Said in Arab literature and has become a classic in modern literature.

Our gracious hostess made us delicious maqlouba and used the recipe from The Gaza Kitchen by Laila El-Haddad.

Palestinian maqlouba.

Meanwhile, everyone brought other yummy contributions to the table.


Then when we possibly couldn’t eat more…the desserts came out.


Our pastry genius is working on her license so everyone can enjoy these!

I took plenty of notes of the discussion about the book.  But to be honest, I think this month was best shared with photos.


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This contemporary classic, the story of a Palestinian who becomes a citizen of Israel, combines fact and fantasy, tragedy and comedy. Saeed is the comic hero, the luckless fool, whose tale tells of aggression and resistance, terror and heroism, reason and loyalty that typify the hardships and struggles of Arabs in Israel. An informer for the Zionist state, his stupidity, candor, and cowardice make him more of a victim than a villain; but in a series of tragicomic episodes, he is gradually transformed from a disaster-haunted, gullible collaborator into a Palestinian-no hero still, but a simple man intent on survival and, perhaps, happiness.

The author’s own anger and sorrow at Palestine’s tragedy and his acquaintance with the absurdities of Israeli politics (he was once a member of Israel’s parliament himself) are here transmuted into satire both biting and funny.





I am a Libyan American who creates art to promote a positive image of Arab and Islamic culture.