What We Are Reading Today: Cents and Sensibility 

Updated 06 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Cents and Sensibility 

AUTHORS: Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro

In Cents and Sensibility, an eminent literary critic and a leading economist make the case that the humanities — especially the study of literature — offer economists ways to make their models more realistic, their predictions more accurate, and their policies more effective and just.

Arguing that Adam Smith’s heirs include Austen, Chekhov, and Tolstoy as much as Keynes and Friedman, Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro trace the connection between Adam Smith’s great classic, The Wealth of Nations, and his less celebrated book on ethics, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

The authors contend that a few decades later, Jane Austen invented her groundbreaking method of novelistic narration in order to give life to the empathy that Smith believed essential to humanity. 

More than anyone, the great writers can offer economists something they need—a richer appreciation of behavior, ethics, culture, and narrative. 


Book review: ‘Where the Bird Disappeared’ is a tale as old as time

Updated 22 September 2018
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Book review: ‘Where the Bird Disappeared’ is a tale as old as time

CHICAGO: Taking a leaf from the real-life stories of Prophet Zakariyya and his son Yahya, Palestinian poet and writer Ghassan Zaqtan’s “Where the Bird Disappeared” is a beautiful yet haunting novel set in the village of Zakariyya, in modern-day Palestine.
Inspired by Qur’anic stories and political history, the novel talks about the relationship between Zakariyya and his best friend Yahya who not only share their names with the two prophets but bear a distant resemblance to their personalities and fates as well.
Zaqtan’s narrative is lyrical, heartbreaking and profound. Rooted in Palestine — a land that stood the test of time and would go on to become the hub of early and modern civilizations — the story is captivating enough to transport us to the hideaway monastery in Nuba Karam or the vineyards of Beit Jalla, the new homes for several villagers forced into exile.
Recalling the devastation and violence faced by those migrating from their homes and country, Zaqtan’s ability to take his readers through the same mountain paths and into the soul of his characters is a cause for applause. As Zaqtan writes of his central character, Zakariyya, “he felt he was walking inside a book, stumbling inside stories that had circulated in these hills since his birth. Journeys and names repeating themselves in succession without end.” And while the novel succeeds in digging deep into the annals of history, it also makes the reader realize how much impact the land of Palestine has had on the two characters and the various stories generating from the region.
Zaqtan’s tale is gentle enough to etch out images of each village, street or ancient structure that make the story and yet devastating enough that these get lost in the bigger picture. His brilliance lies in how conscious he is about the words used, while never losing sight of the historical context of his narrative or the love of the central characters for their beloved land.
Ghassan Zaqtan is an award-winning Palestinian poet, novelist, and playwright. He first published “Where the Bird Disappeared” in Arabic in 2015. It was then translated into English by Samuel Wilder and published by Seagull Books in 2018.