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Exile from Exile

Israeli Writers from Iraq

Nancy E. Berg

Publication Year: 1996

The standard histories of Israeli literature limit the canon, virtually ignoring those who came to Israel from Jewish communities in the Middle East. By focusing on the work of Iraqi-born authors, this book offers a fundamental rethinking of the canon and of Israeli literary history. The story of these writers challenges common conceptions of exile and Zionist redemption. At the heart of this book lies the paradox that the dream of ingathering the exiles has made exiles of the ingathered. Upon arriving in Israel, these writers had to decide whether to continue writing in their native language, Arabic, or begin in a new language, Hebrew. The author reveals how Israeli works written in Arabic depict different memories of Iraq from those written in Hebrew. In addition, her analysis of the early novels of Hebrew writers set against the experience of “transit camps” (ma’abarot) argues for a re-evaluation of the significance of this neglected literary subgenre.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

Many people helped me in the writing of this book and I would like to express my gratitude and thank those who helped me the most. My interest in this topic began years ago, when Professor Edna Amir Coffin introducted me to Sami Michael through his novel Hasut in a Hebrew literature course. A few years later Gaby and Rahel Warburg, then directors of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo, introduced...

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xvi

This book examines the literature of a particular group of writers. They belong to a community of Jews who moved from Iraq to Israel during the period of mass immigration (1948-51). Their departure from Iraq signaled the end of the oldest Jewish community in the Diaspora; their arrival in Israel came at the beginning of a new nation. While the movement of the Babylonian Jewish...

Part One: THE LITERATURE OF EXILE AND IRAQI JEWISH WRITING

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1. Exile, Literature, and Jewish Writers

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pp. 3-14

THE ACT OF MOVING FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER, OF LEAVING ONE country and settling in a different state, gains a specific set of connotations and has definite emotional significance once it is labeled with the term "exile." The word itself requires some response, some engagement on the part of the speaker, the listener, the reader. It holds a special position in literature and literary studies, as well as in the experience of...

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2. The Jewish Community in Iraq

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pp. 15-27

FROM ITS FOUNDING, THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF IRAQ HAS PRESENTED a special case study because of a combination of several factors: its antiquity, size, level of educational achievement, and the extent of integration (without assimilation). The Iraqi Jews were in general more educated and more urbanized than their Yemenite and Moroccan counterparts, and more immersed in Arabic-Islamic culture than the...

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3. Jewish Writers of Modern Iraqi Fiction

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pp. 29-39

THE JEWS OF IRAQ MADE A CONTRIBUTION NOT ONLY IN POLITICS, HEALTH, trade, and commerce, but in the cultural sphere as well. The extent of Jewish participation in the Iraqi literary scene was unprecedented in the Arab world. Cohen writes that the process of the Jews' Iraqization was "evidenced in the emergence of the first Jewish poets and writers [in modern times] writing in the Arabic language as...

Part Two: NARRATIVE WRITINGS OF THE IRAQI JEWS IN ISRAEL

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4. The Choice of Language

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pp. 43-66

AT THE VERY BASIS OF THE CONDITION OF EXILE IS THE INABILITY TO communicate. The difference between the familiar language of home (the mother tongue) and the new language of exile is one of many the exiled person encounters and at the same time serves as a metaphor for them all. The difference is particularly significant for the writer. Among the Iraqi Jews who came to Israel were writers who had...

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5. The Experience of Transition: First Novels in Hebrew

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pp. 67-105

THE CRISES ELI AMIR DESCRIBES WERE SHARED BY MANY UPON THEIR arrival to Israel during the period of mass immigration (1948-51). Their experience has found expression in the Hebrew literary subgenre, sifrut hama'abarah (literature of the transit camp). This literature, written predominantly by Israelis of Iraqi origin, is frequently characterized by the sharp contrast between the newcomers' expectations and...

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6. Childhood and Home in Iraq: Narratives in Arabic

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pp. 107-128

WHAT IS HOME? FOR THE EXILE, IN PARTICULAR, HOME IS LOCATED IN a specific time and place: childhood in one's motherland. Home is the house in which one grew up, the members of the household, and the different routines, customs, and traditions of the household. Home serves to give one a sense of identity, of history, and of belonging. The state of exile causes a loss of these senses and leads to efforts to recover...

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7. Different Perspectives on Life in Iraq: Narratives in Hebrew

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pp. 129-149

THE HOMES IN THE NARRATIVES DISCUSSED IN CHAPTER 6 SERVE TO separate inside from outside and childhood from adulthood. Inside all is warm and secure. Childhood is safe. It is only when threats from the outside can no longer be ignored that the glow of childhood begins to pale and the necessity of leaving home presents itself. In the four works discussed in this chapter, most of the action...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 151-156

THIS BOOK HAS EXAMINED A GROUP OF WRITERS WHO MOVED FROM ONE culture to another-from Iraq to Israel-and their writing. After looking into the factors causing this move and the culture left behind, the study went on to explore the issues raised by this move and its expression in their writing. These issues-choices of language, genre, and topics; considerations of audience; and literary contributions-are inextricably...

Notes

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pp. 157-189

Bibliography

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pp. 191-205

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 207-212


E-ISBN-13: 9780791496428
E-ISBN-10: 0791496422
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791429792
Print-ISBN-10: 0791429792

Page Count: 212
Publication Year: 1996

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies
Series Editor Byline: Russell Stone