Arabesques: A Novel

Overview


Available again, Arabesques is a classic, complex novel of identity, memory, and history in the Middle East and points beyond—including Iowa and New York City. Anton Shammas, the first Arab to write a novel in Hebrew, has given us a riveting look at a people we hear too little about: Palestinian Christians. Arabesques was chosen as one of the best books of 1988 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.

The first important Palestinian author to write in ...

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Overview


Available again, Arabesques is a classic, complex novel of identity, memory, and history in the Middle East and points beyond—including Iowa and New York City. Anton Shammas, the first Arab to write a novel in Hebrew, has given us a riveting look at a people we hear too little about: Palestinian Christians. Arabesques was chosen as one of the best books of 1988 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.

The first important Palestinian author to write in Hebrew presents a sophisticated, experimental novel about Arab village life.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
[A] 'vibrant and original' work.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Employing two narrators, this semi-autobiographical ``elaborate tapestry'' by an Israeli Arab interweaves the 150-year history of the Shammas clan in Fassuta, a village in northern Israel, with contemporary scenes in Paris and at the University of Iowa. PW said, ``The multilayered pyrotechnics are dazzling and sophisticated but may render this work impenetrable for many American readers.'' (May)
Library Journal
These two novels reflect the turmoil in the divided land from which they stem. Kaniuk, an Israeli Jew, centers the Arab-Israeli conflict in the mind of a ``good Arab,'' the son of an Israeli heroine and a Palestinian scholar. His ``confessions,'' as fantastical as his origins, elicit the truth that ``in a tragedy there isn't one justice but two'' and leaves him as divided as he was at birth. Shammas, an Israeli Arab and a Christian, moves in the other direction: interlacing myth, history, and familiar memories, he creates a tale that takes him toward some resolution of the disparate sources of his own identity. Depicting men and women as colorful as reality itself, he portrays Palestinians in a light that will surprise and please many American readers. Both novels manifest the literary influence of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and both deserve wide readership. L.M. Lewis, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Kirkus Reviews
That the publisher lists this in the "Literature/Middle Eastern Studies" categories on the book jacket suggests that there's some extraliterary dimension to Shammas's admittedly autobiographical story. Beside the whiff of sociology, there's novelty as well: Shammas is the first Christian Palestinian to write in Hebrew, and his family tale mingles with the lore of his displaced group. Spanning Arab life from the 1860s to the present, Shammas's "fragmented structure of juxtaposed time zones and images" (to use Kirkus's description in 1988) "ultimately combines into a vivid portrait of Middle Eastern life." This "anecdotal history" travels widely and "gets the better of our narrator," even though "family bonds prove stronger than the forces of dispersal." A bit confused by "the largely unnecessary device of introducing a hidden narrator," Kirkus considered Shammas's family mystery a "vibrant and original" work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520228320
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 263
  • Sales rank: 302,933
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author


Anton Shammas is Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.
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