Sunday, January 16, 2005


Stuck Inside With the In-Laws

The Observer covers a series of darkly humorous e-mails detailing the absurdities of everyday life with a 93-year-old mother-in-law.... who just happens to live in an apartment near Yasser Arafat's beseiged headquarters in Ramallah. Her dispatches have become an unlikely publishing hit, and they bear an even more unlikely title:

Sharon and My Mother-in-Law has since been translated into 11 languages (it is ironic that no edition in Arabic is yet available - though at least this means that the mother-in-law has not yet read the book). It is published in Britain this month, and was the subject of a recent bidding war in the US. In France, it is a bestseller. In Italy, its author won the prestigious Viareggio prize...

Amiry likes to remind people that things always look worse from afar - and so it is with Ramallah. Last week, as Mahmoud Abbas was elected president, the city was in the newspapers every day and, as usual, it looked grim, all rubble and graffiti and young men with guns. The reality is a bit different, though there are big piles of stones absolutely everywhere - Suad often jokes that she dreams of being made the Palestinian 'Minister of Rubble'.

In what almost seems like the makings of the world's weirdest sitcom, author Suad Amiry talks about the exasperation of being stuck in the house with a picky relative. 'Perhaps one day I may forgive you for putting us under curfew for 42 days,' she writes at one point. 'But I will never forgive you for obliging us to have my mother-in-law for what seemed, then, more like 42 years.'

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