Scrutinizing Roth's The Counter-Life

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Scrutinizing Roth’s Middle East novel, the Counter-life, it becomes obvious that the book could be interpreted in two different ways. On the surface, the text gives an immediate impression that the author aims to introduce the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a neutral perspective different from anti-Arab treatments advocated by pro-Zionist writers well-known in the American literary canon. Nevertheless, a contrapuntal reading of the novel provides evidence that writing can never be a neutral activity. Interpreting the Middle East conflict in terms that the West could easily accept, the author develops a narrative strategy through which the displaced Palestinian is either silenced or assigned a status of inferiority and decadence. In other words, the authorial attempt to create a Palestinian counter narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict is totally undermined by a…show more content…
Said also illustrates that in colonial narratives, colonized people are viewed as being “naturally subservient to a superior, advanced, developed, and morally mature [power]” (Eagleton et al 1990: 72). In Roth’s novel, which is a reproduction of western colonial narratives, the displaced Palestinians are transformed into cultural objects, orientalized and marginalized to conform to their image in colonial taxonomy of inferior races. Since the destruction of native images is a recurrent, almost a ritualistic practice in colonial discourses, the Palestinian subaltern, in Roth’s novel, is either denied a voice or appears in the single image of a fundamentalist, anti-Semitic demon. In this context, the Palestinian refugee is fictionally exploited to affirm anti-Arab discourses integral to American fiction about the Middle
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