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A Trumpet in the Wadi by Sami Michael
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A Trumpet in the Wadi (1987)

by Sami Michael

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A Trumpet in the Wadi is difficult for me to rate because I'm not sure I can even understand it.

This is the second novel I can recall reading that's set primarily in Israel, and in both instances I found the novels nearly impenetrable. There are interesting insights and beautiful images, but the influence of the culture is just so foreign to me, I can't really comprehend the characters' actions and motivations. I can't figure out why sometimes they remain silent and other times they lash out. I can't understand the concept of covering for one's actions for the sake of propriety or tradition. I can't even picture the landscape.

Some of this bafflement is represented in the character of Alex, a Jewish immigrant from the Soviet Union, but while his confusion might make me feel a little more at home in my own confusion, his perspective doesn't help me to understand because the perspective of someone from the Soviet Union is nearly as foreign to me as the perspective of Arab Christians in Israel.

The main feeling I take away from this novel is of being an outsider. Not only am I an outsider reading it, but essentially all of the characters are outsiders, too. They've all had to try and piece together through trial and error who they are and how to act in different situations. I suspect I do this to one degree or another within my own culture in the United States---where I, incidentally, often feel like an outsider even though I was born here---but I think the paradigm here of equality makes it difficult for me to conceptualize the strict religious, ethnic, and class boundaries in the Haifa of Michael's novel.

Reading about these characters I think, why don't they just move somewhere else? They don't have to stay in Israel, do they? But Alex, the immigrant, even addresses this issue. He's essentially stateless, and anywhere he goes he'll be foreign, will struggle to speak the language, to understand and be understood. His best bet, it seems, is to stick with one thing and make the most out of that situation.

Which is really kind of depressing.

I like to think that we're all humans and as such, we're more alike than we are different, but do I really have strong evidence to back up this belief? ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Nov 27, 2016 |
Ad Haifa nel 1982 si incontranoe si amano un ebreo russo e un'araba cristiana. Interessante. ( )
  cloentrelibros | Aug 23, 2016 |
Coming-of-age story set just before the First Lebanon War of two Christian Arab sisters living in the Wadi Nisnas of Haifa: one of them pregnant with the local mobster's son and negotiating a marriage with her cousin and the other seemingly doomed to staying unmarried until a Jewish dockworker moves in upstairs and mesmerizes her with his music. At the forefront is, unavoidably perhaps, the tension between the Arab and Jewish citizens, but also the clash between the various traditions of the cultures somehow attempting to coexist in the pressure-cooker which is Israel. The characters manage to be irritating and endearing at the same time and their choices, based on their own peculiarities or tradition or a merge of both, are understandable and commendable and frightfully tragic all at once. My only problem with the book is that it's not very long and some events that are merely hinted at would have been more fascinating were they described more fully. It is a poetic novel and its writer something of a master, so the gripe about the length may be mine alone. ( )
1 vote -Eva- | Aug 19, 2012 |
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Grandpa Elias, smiling his Egyptian smile, remarked that small troubles are heaven's gift to the unfortunate.
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Then suddenly they disappeared, leaving me blank, neither Jew nor Arab, in a street that was a solid mass of anxiety and fear, hatred and anger. In this war-minded street the Jews might let me share their laughter but not their sorrow, whereas the Arabs would eject me from their laughter but expect me to participate in their sorrow.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743244966, Hardcover)

Coming of age during the 1982 Arab-Israeli conflict in Lebanon, fatherless sisters Huda and Mary, Arabians living in the Jewish city of Haifa, find their lives impacted by new neighbor Alex, a trumpet-playing Jewish Russian who awakens Huda's despairing soul and prompts Mary's dangerous foray into a

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Set in the months preceeding the 1982 Israeli-Arab conflict in Lebanon, this tale is the coming-of-age story of two fatherless Christian Arab sisters, Huda and Mary, who live in the wadi - the Arab quarter in the jewish city of Haifa on the northern coast of Israel. An extraordinary bond of love and mutual respect unites the sisters - polar opposites from their appearances to their tempers. Huda, the narrator of the story, is thin and withdrawn and, after abandoning her chance at marriage a few years back, has prematurely resigned herself to the monotonous life of an old maid. Her younger sister, Mary, is voluptuous, carnal, and perenially unemployed. Wrapped in the love of their sometimes bitter mother, their iconoclast grandfather, and the cheerful and omnipresent neighbor Jamilla, the sisters' lives change when a peculiar young Russian Jewish immigrant, Alex, moves into the upstairs flat. The melodies of this soulful trumpet player become the intoxicating theme music for Huda's unexpected reawakening - and for Mary's dangerous foray into a love triangle with the heir of the local Muslim mob and her country cousin."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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