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Second Person Singular

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"Part comedy of manners, part psychological mystery . . . Issues of nationalism, religion, and passing collide with quickly changing social and sexual mores." —Boston Globe

From one of the most important contemporary voices to emerge from the Middle East comes a gripping tale of love and betrayal, honesty and artifice, which asks whether it is possible to truly reinvent ourselves, to shed our old skin and start anew.

Second Person Singular follows two men, a successful Arab criminal attorney and a social worker-turned-artist, whose lives intersect under the most curious of circumstances. The lawyer has a thriving practice in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, a large house, a Mercedes, speaks both Arabic and Hebrew, and is in love with his wife and two young children. In an effort to uphold his image as a sophisticated Israeli Arab, he often makes weekly visits to a local bookstore to pick up popular novels. On one fateful evening, he decides to buy a used copy of Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata, a book his wife once recommended. To his surprise, inside he finds a small white note, a love letter, in Arabic, in her handwriting. I waited for you, but you didn't come. I hope everything's all right. I wanted to thank you for last night. It was wonderful. Call me tomorrow? Consumed with suspicion and jealousy, the lawyer slips into a blind rage over the presumed betrayal. He first considers murder, revenge, then divorce, but when the initial sting of humiliation and hurt dissipates, he decides to hunt for the book's previous owner—a man named Yonatan, a man who is not easy to track down, whose identity is more complex than imagined, and whose life is more closely aligned with his own than expected. In the process of dredging up old ghosts and secrets, the lawyer tears the string that holds all of their lives together.

A Palestinian who writes in Hebrew, Sayed Kashua defies classification and breaks through cultural barriers. He communicates, with enormous emotional power and a keen sense of the absurd, the particular alienation and the psychic costs of people struggling to straddle two worlds. Second Person Singular is a deliciously complex psychological mystery and a searing dissection of the individuals that comprise a divided society.

Publishers Weekly Review

Feb 27, 2012 – “The lawyer” is a well-off Israeli Arab who becomes obsessed with the thought that his wife is having an affair. His violent reaction is disturbing, but apparently necessary to set in motion the chain of events that link him with the man he suspects is his wife’s lover. At its best, this novel illuminates just how fluid identity can be, even—or especially—amid the Arab-Israeli tension of Jerusalem. While the actual constructs of the plot can veer into the implausible, as when a paralyzed Jewish boy’s mother allows his Palestinian caretaker to steal her son’s identity, the deception sparks a compelling two-sided narrative: the young Palestinian man, pretending to be Jewish, enrolls in school and overhears Arabs’ conversations but never lets on that he understands. Unfortunately, the writing, often redundant and sluggish, could have used a shrewd editor. Kashua, a columnist for Haaretz, has sharp insights on the assumptions made about race, religion, ethnicity, and class that shape Israeli identity. Ideally, next time he will trade a cumbersome plot for characters that bring his wisdom to light.

Customer Reviews


Not done but this book took a sharp turn that really pulled me in. Also, I'm learning a lot about life in Palestine. This is something different that all must read.

Second Person Singular
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Apr 03, 2012
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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