Friday, November 05, 2004

Arafat: Not quite dead

Palestinian envoy to France Leila Shahid was quoted in the Times as saying that "Yasir Arafat, in his state of health and at his age, is at a critical juncture between life and death."

Leaving aside the implications of Arafat's death*, once that happens...what exactly is this mystical state between life and death currently occupied by the Palestinian leader, who is, as Le Monde would have it, "entre la vie et la mort" ?

"Il y a été admis pour une "anomalie sanguine", reports Le Monde, which, though it just means he had blood abnormalities, sounds to Anglophone ears as though something larger and more mysterious were amiss.

Something about Arafat's hospitalization happening in France and being described in French gives it a surreal feeling, as if Arafat were a demi-god of some sort, hovering between life and death, and not just an old demi-terrorist leader on his way out. Is this the result of quirks of the French language, of the French obsession with siding with the Palestinians, or of both?

* "La disparition de Yasser Arafat risque de produire en Israël des résultats contrastés." No, really?

4 comments:

Alex B. said...

"Reposer entre la vie et la mort" is a very common expression in French, frequently used by the media to describe someone who is just about to die.

And yes, Arafat in France isn't quite the same thing as Arafat in America.

So it's both.

Phoebe said...

Somehow I figured something had been lost in translation when the New York Times declared Arafat to be between life and death, because that sort of phrasing would only be used in English to denote some kind of freaky metaphysical state, not for a more common situation in which an old person is deathly ill. And of course the French view of Arafat differs from the typical American one.

Anonymous said...

Arafat's limbo recalls that of Francisco Franco, who famously hovered between life and death for so long that the juncture found its way onto SNL:
http://www.fact-index.com/g/ge/generalissimo_francisco_franco_is_still_dead.html

Phoebe said...

It also recalls the Monty Python and the Holy Grail scene in which an old man, as he's being heaped onto a pile of plague-ravaged corpses, announces "I'm getting better!" Also the Monty Python sketch in which a man is being advised how to bury his mother by a funeral director who notes that one method is not ideal if the woman is "not quite dead."