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April 18, 2003 - Image 72

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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S

ami Michael, an Iraqi-born
novelist who writes about the
clash of Arab and Jewish cul-
tures, knows what it's like to
be a part of a beleaguered minority. In
Iraq, he was always labeled a Jew; in
Israel, he is still known as a Jewish
writer from an Arab country. The
irony is hardly lost on him.
Born in Baghdad in 1926, Michael
became active in the communist
underground and was
forced to flee to Iran in
the first year of his uni-
versity studies. In 1949,
he was able to make his
way to Israel, where he
has lived ever since.
Tip date, he has writ-
ten nine novels, the lat-
est of which is 2001's

Water Kissing Water

BREAKFAST • LUNCH • DINNER

s2
OFF

Meet Israeli writer Sami Michael, whose
novel-turned-movie comes to this year's JCC
Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival.

(Am Oved). Other
books have included

Michael writes all of his novels in
Hebrew. In addition to three honorary
doctorates, he also has been awarded
numerous prizes, including the Ze'ev
Prize, Kugel Prize and, twice, the
Prime Minister's Prize.
The following is excerpted from a
recent interview, conducted in Hebrew
in his apartment overlooking Haifa's bay.

JN: How does the Arab-Israeli con-

flict express itself in your writing?
SM: I write about the whole conflict.
When I write about a Jewish character
or an Israeli character, I
write as a Jewish writer.
And when I describe an
Arab - character, I write as
an Arab writer about
Arabs.
So, for me, the Arab
isn't the other one —
he's myself also. And the
same is true about writ-
ing about being Israeli.
It isn't the other for me
— it's myself also.

Refuge, A Handful of
Fog, Trumpet in the
JN: Do you feel split at
Wadi and his best-sell-
all between the life that
Sarni Michael. • One of the
ing novel, Victoria,
you left in Iraq and the
which depicted a family most poweifiil naturalists in one that you're living
now in Israel?
saga set in Baghdad and modern Hebre w literature.
SM: I am like baklava
was translated into sev-
— a pastry made of many different
eral languages. .
The film version of A Trumpet in the layers, but every layer reaches and
Wadi, shot in Haifa and awarded Best
soaks into the other layers. So I am
not split. I like my past, I like my
Film at the Haifa Film Festival, Best
present, and I even like the time
Drama by the 2001 Israeli Motion
between them.
Picture Academy and First Prize at the
Israel Film Festival, is a political love
JN: So you feel at home here in
story about two Israeli outsiders: Alex,
Israel? Or is home found in your use
a Jew and recent Russian immigrant,
of language?
and Huda, a Christian Arab woman.
SM: I don't think that one's home —
It will screen 5 p.m. Wednesday, April
even of a spiritual being like a writer
30, in Birmingham; 5 p.m. Thursday,
May 1, in Windsor; and 8 p.m. Monday, — that one's home can be in language.
Language is a song, no more than
May 8, in Commerce Township.
that. I think that the home of a writer
The film also is the opening selec-
tion of the Israel Film Festival, coming is his real house, the house in which
he's living at the present time.
to Chicago May 8-15.
My home is not the house I lived in
in Baghdad or any other house that I
F.M. Black was a reporter in the
lived in but this house that I'm living
Jerusalem bureau of the New York
in now. A lot of writers try to flee from
Times from 1988-1991. He now
the present, from reality, from politics,
contributes to other publications.
but it's impossible to flee.

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