A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies: Background information when reading Sadness Is a White Bird

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Sadness Is a White Bird

by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher X
Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2019, 256 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
Buy This Book

About this Book

A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies

This article relates to Sadness Is a White Bird

Print Review

Sadness is a White Bird's cryptic title is actually a direct quotation from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's 1967 poem, "A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies," which forms part of his collection The End of Night.

Did you feel sad? I asked.
Cutting me off, he said, Mahmoud, my friend,
sadness is a white bird that does not come near a battlefield.
Soldiers commit a sin when they feel sad.

Indeed, much of Rothman-Zecher's novel takes inspiration from the imagery and themes within this seminal poem that stages a dialogue between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian narrator who shares the poet's name, Mahmoud.

Mahmoud Darwish Mahmoud Darwish, who passed away in 2008 after complications from open-heart surgery, is widely regarded as one of the most popular Palestinian poets. He was especially known for how he used his art to draw attention to the Palestinian cause. Mahmoud's poems often evoke a sense of Palestinian national aspiration, and as such "White Lilies" is quite atypical in the poet's oeuvre as it shifts focus onto the enemy and gives insight into the Israeli opposition's mindset.

Throughout the poem, the narrator queries the soldier about nationalistic pride, and what it means to love and die for his country:

Homeland for him, he tells me, is to drink my mother's coffee,
to return at nightfall.
I asked him: and the land?
I don't know it, he said.
I don't feel it in my flesh and blood,

Increasingly, the soldier seems to come across as being disillusioned with war and longs for peace. The soldier is tired of bullets and the "fascist moment of triumph," instead he desires "white lilies, streets of song, a house of light," he needs "a child to cherish a day of laughter, not a weapon of war."

For some Israelis, this poem was deemed controversial as it can be construed as Darwish speaking in the name of Israelis and detracting from their geographical patriotism. However, setting aside all partisan allegiances, the poem is a heartfelt attempt to find empathy and understanding between two opposing sides.

Picture of Mahmoud Darwish from Champlain College

Article by Dean Muscat

This "beyond the book article" relates to Sadness Is a White Bird. It originally ran in February 2018 and has been updated for the February 2019 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Let's Call It a Doomsday
    Let's Call It a Doomsday
    by Katie Henry
    However the world will end, Ellis Kimball is ready for it. Her obsessive stash of survivalist ...
  • Book Jacket: The Winemaker's Wife
    The Winemaker's Wife
    by Kristin Harmel
    Liv Kent's world is falling apart. After 12 years of marriage, her husband has decided he's done, ...
  • Book Jacket: On the Clock
    On the Clock
    by Emily Guendelsberger
    In her excellent debut, On The Clock, journalist Emily Guendelsberger thoughtfully examines the ...
  • Book Jacket
    America for Beginners
    by Leah Franqui
    Leah Franqui's first novel America for Beginners was well-reviewed by our First Impression readers; ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Yale Needs Women
    by Anne Gardiner Perkins


    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secrets We Kept
    by Lara Prescott

    Reese Witherspoon's Sept Book Club Pick!
    "This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot."—EW
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson

A story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Red Address Book

The Red Address Book
by Sofia Lundberg

"Wise and captivating, Lundberg's novel offers clear-eyed insights into old age and the solace of memory."--People

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Place F E A E I I P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.