Roesch, Dallal Read from Novels

Laura Stoloff

On April 25 and 26 Joseph Roesch and Professor of Middle East Studies Shaw J. Dallal discussed their novels at book-signings for Colgate students and the Hamilton community. Roesch, a retired English professor who lives in Hamilton with his wife, Linda, holds a doctorate in Medieval English Literature from The University of Wisconsin and has taught at the University of Wisconsin, Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College. His historical novel, Boudica: Queen of Iceni, tells the life of a “Celtic warrior-queen and Druid priestess who led a sweeping revolt against Roman occupation forces in Britain in 60/61 A.D.,” according to Roesch’s website. Boudica was a “brilliant military strategist” and a central figure in Celtic Britain, waging wars that killed 70,000 people in London. In the lecture, he read passages from his book that focused on the power of a woman in a male-dominated society. He also described Boudica’s “courageous struggle against the might of Rome.” Roesch’s interest in Boudica began in college when he read about her in the Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus. She intrigued Roesch, and despite dreadful physical descriptions of Boudica, he decided to write about her as a beautiful woman. Roesch mentioned that all historical accounts describe an unflattering appearance of Boudica. The “in your face cover” of his book which depicts Boudica as an attractive woman has thus sparked controversy, especially in the United Kingdom. However, Roesch stands by his cover.”I read many dreadful descriptions, deliberately unflattering portraits” Roesch said. But he had a hard time believing Boudica was so unfortunate looking because “what man would follow her into a supermarket, let alone into a battle.” Instead Roesch suggests that men of the time simply de-sexed her, stripping her of female attributes. When asked if he will write another historical novel in the future, Roesch replied, “I don’t know if I will, but whatever I do might have a certain significance. I’m not sure historical novels are the best way to do that,” assuring the audience he would accomplish something in the upcoming years.”I don’t golf, which makes me an anomaly in this community,” Roesch said jokingly. The second book signing featured Professor Shaw J. Dallal, who read passages and gave commentary on his book, Scattered Like Seeds. Dallal began writing his novel in the late 1970s, though it was not published until 1999. The novel opens on June 5, 1967 (the beginning of the June War) and ends with the passing of OPEC’s oil embargo on the United States and the Netherlands. Dallal first wrote a short autobiographical story about a 16-year-old boy who comes, penniless, to the United States from Palestine and ends up studying at Cornell University and marrying an American girl. Soon after, Dallal’s secretary read it and urged him to turn it into a novel. The book, originally titled The Other Exodus, received criticism because publishers believed the name to be too controversial. The main character is Thafer, a fictionalized version of Dallal, who comes to the U.S. to study. He has intentions of returning to Palestine, but ends up staying in the states and starting a family. Twenty years later, he feels a passionate attraction to his native land and returns shortly after the death of his American wife. Dallal invented a Palestinian lover for Thafer to make the book more appealing to publishers, but she ended up symbolizing Thafer’s homeland; his love for her mirrored his love for Palestine. Thafer constantly feels a pull from his home by his children, who he hopes can “carry the torch” as “messengers of peace,” even though his daughter and son, when they come to visit him, want to become freedom fighters.