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Salt Houses


From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family...
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Discuss Salt Houses by Hala Alyan:
Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

Created: 05/25/18

Replies: 8

Posted May. 25, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

Atef thinks to himself, "What is a life? A series of yeses and noes, photographs you shove in a drawer somewhere, loves you think will save you but that cannot. Continuing to move, enduring, not stopping even when there is pain. That's all life is…" Do you agree with his interpretation? What is yours?


Posted Jun. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

Atef is saying life is the sum of your choices, your memories, the realization that love is not going to heal every wound of your soul, and that you will have to keep moving --I notice he didn't say, "moving forward--despite pain. That part I would agree with. Where I would disagree is when he adds, "That's all life is." I think there is more.

Life is also knowing that even if people you love can't "save you" -- you still have to work through your own challenges and heal yourself if you can -- still, there is great solace in loving and being loved. Life is also being able to experience beauty, from nature, from art, music, poetry, and in books -- a broader companionship of souls across time. Life is finding something worth fighting for -- fighting by enduring, fighting by creating, fighting by investing your caring and attention to help others. In short, finding new meaning and purpose when your old one proves to be mistaken or worse. Life is an opportunity for endless new learning. And sometimes life is for stopping to just be grateful for what you can enjoy in your experience.

This was a great question because it forced me to realize what I think Atef's problem was -- not merely his guilt, but his failure to find some other cause to throw himself into, or some other way to fight for the justice that inspired him in his youth, some way that wasn't violent. He had a job, but he didn't have a sense of purpose, beyond survival. Even more than feeling rootless and torn from one's own life, I realize through Atef how profound the suffering is when the grief and loss and survivor's guilt can prevent someone from finding a new purpose in life.


Posted Jun. 08, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolf

Join Date: 07/10/14

Posts: 34

RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

It is the simplicity of his statement that makes you agree with it but at the same time question it. Because life IS a series of yeses and noes but it is what precedes those yeses and noes that really make up life. The yes decision or the no decision we make every day compile our life.
He thought Alia would be the one to save him over his guilt about Mustafa and perhaps he never realized that she did. Having someone love you makes you better, calmer, happier, more creative and without Alia he would truly have been lost.
When he talks about photographs shoved in a drawer is he really referring to memories he tried to shove in drawer to forget but could not.


Posted Jun. 08, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 312

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RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

JLPenn77 seems to have said it all. Reading Atef's statement I would say here was a very depressed man. Yes we are always making decisions, thinking yes or no, but he seems to just walk through life without any emotion. Did he not feel for his wife, his children or grandchildren? He seems to be totally passionless. In which case, I do not agree with his definition of life. I can feel great joy just looking at a new baby, and all the promise that goes with a new life. A flower in my garden seems to mean more to me than life did to Atef.


Posted Jun. 13, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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taking.mytime

Join Date: 03/29/16

Posts: 97

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RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

Given the fact that Atef was living in a horrid time in his countries existence, I still cannot give him an excuse. I did not like him and felt he was only out for himself and would use any tactic he could to garner his acceptance. I don't suppose that when you are living life just for yourself that over time your definition of life could be very satisfying.

I think life is part circumstance, part chance. When chance overrides circumstance, you need to dig a bit deeper and focus on those goals that are achievable. But always looking forward and setting goals will go a long way to keep you happy.


Posted Jun. 13, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 277

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RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

Life is what we make of it and Atef seemed to let the past dominate his life, which he wasn't happy in.


Posted Jun. 14, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulagb

Join Date: 08/16/17

Posts: 40

RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

Atef was a very shallow man and a shallow character in this novel. I agree he was passionless and governed by guilt. He had betrayed his best friend. Whether the reader judges him harshly or not Atef judged himself. He never forgave himself or otherwise let himself move forward.


Posted Jun. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
scgirl

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 59

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RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

I think our own interpretations of life are based on our experiences, backgrounds, personality, and external forces. In this regard I believe that Atef's interpretation of a life was right on point for him.

I have always considered life a sort of journey (no big revelation there) where your choices take you down different paths. Your experiences, background, personality, and any external forces motivate the choices you make. Hopefully, you benefit either positively or educationally from your choices. I don't believe most people set out to make bad choices and that choices are made based on the information we have at the time. For me, life is good. I wonder if, at the end, Atef could have said the same.


Posted Jun. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janeto

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 7

RE: Do you agree with Atef's interpretation of a life? If not, what is yours?

I agree that those we love cannot save us, but loving others can. It is our reaching out and making connections with those around us that gives meaning to our lives. Atef's life is defined by the love he felt for his friend Mustafá, his wife and his children. It is about loving, not being loved.


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