My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century Adina Hoffman

Publication date:
30 Mar 2010
Yale University Press
464 pages: 227 x 146mm
65 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

This first biography of a Palestinian writer also provides a moving account of the ways “ordinary” individuals are swept up by the floodtides of both war and peace

Beautifully written, and composed with a novelist’s eye for detail,this booktells the story of an exceptional man and the culture from which he emerged.

Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya and was forced to flee during the war in 1948. He traveled on foot to Lebanon and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact, he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, at the same time evolving into what National Book Critics Circle Award–winner Eliot Weinberger has dubbed “perhaps the most accessible and delightful poet alive today.”

As it places Muhammad Ali’s life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, My Happiness offers a sweeping depiction of a charged and fateful epoch. It is a work that Arabic scholar Michael Sells describes as “among the five ‘must read’ books on the Israel-Palestine tragedy.” In an era when talk of the “Clash of Civilizations” dominates, this biography offers something else entirely: a view of the people and culture of the Middle East that is rich, nuanced, and, above all else, deeply human.

More about this title

Read more about Taha Muhammad Ali, poet and author.

Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Nation, the Washington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She lives in Jerusalem.

Listen to author Adina Hoffman explains why she needed to put herself into her life of Taha Muhammad Ali, on The Guardian Books Podcast

"A remarkable book ... A triumph of personal empathy and historical insight, and a beacon for anyone who knows that 'more joins than separates us.'"
Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

"A rich tapestry of the personal, the literary and the political, skillfully woven by a sympathetic writer ... Hoffman's intense but often humorous book is a powerful reminder of the singularity and complexity of this most intractable of conflicts and of the ability of the human spirit to be creative in adversity."
Ian Black, The Guardian

"Veering between biography, history, journalism and memoir, this painstakingly researched work is a human-scale picture of the . . . under-reported history of the Palestinians in Israel as well as an accessible introduction to their poetry. . . . Hoffman's book is unpretentious, principled and . . . charming."
—The Economist

"Beautifully written. . . . In tracing [Muhammad Ali's] life . . . Hoffman manages to illuminate the experience of an entire people. She is scrupulously even-handed. . . . [This] is not only the biography of a remarkable man; it is an act of reclamation against the erosions of memory."
—Eric Ormsby, Times Literary Supplement

"Reading Adina Hoffman's remarkable book we are consoled that, in the face of terrible brutalities and sufferings, the enduring power of poetry might restore in words—and celebrate—a measure of what has been lost in reality."
—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

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