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Literature Fiction Hebrew literature
Palestinian literature Israeli literature
2014-09-08 00:58:17 GMT

Anton Shammas - Arabesques (Israeli Arab novel)
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* Anton Shammas - ARABESQUES: A Novel (Harper & Row, 1988). Translated from the Hebrew
by Vivian Eden. 263 pp. -- PDF (reprocessed older scan)
The publication of Anton Shammas' acclaimed debut novel ARABESQUES in Israel in 1986
created a stir whose ripples reached far beyond literary circles and concerns. It was
the first novel written by an Arab in Hebrew, Shammas' "stepmother tongue", and a
significant literary feat in its own right that was hailed as "multilayered, dazzling and
sophisticated" (Publishers Weekly).
Shammas is a writer, poet and translator who describes himself as an "Israeli Arab" -- an
ambiguous, problematic identity that forms the subject of this book. It is a classic,
complex novel of identity, memory, and history in the Middle East and points beyond.
Employing two narrators, this semi-autobiographical and "elaborate tapestry" interweaves
the 150-year history of the Shammas clan in Fassuta, a village in northern Israel, with
contemporary scenes in Paris, New York City, and at the University of Iowa.
ARABESQUES has been translated into several languages, including English, Spanish,
French, German, and Italian, although it has never appeared in Arabic. It was chosen as
one of the best books of 1988 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.
"Intricately conceived and beautifully written. . . A crisp, luminous, and nervy mixture
of fantasy and autobiography, and an elegant example of postmodern baroque." -- John
"This book is a history of its author's youth and the memoir of a family and a fabled
region -- Galilee. . . a beautifully impressive piece of prose." -- William Gass, New
York Times Book Review
"Arabesques is not only the first Hebrew novel written by an Arab but also one of the
most adventurous pieces of Israeli writing in recent years. It is a spectacularly
literary book, with moments of real poetic power." -- Robert Alter
"If Hebrew literature is at all destined to have its Conrads, Nabokovs, Becketts, and
Ionescos, it could not have hoped for a more auspicious beginning." -- Muhammad Siddiq,
Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Arabesques is a classic of the exploration of identity. A Palestinian master of Hebrew,
living at the seam between Jews and Arabs, between the ancient and the modern, between
loyalties and appetites, Shammas has written beautifully about his search for design. He
transforms fact into fantasy without changing a thing." -- Leon Wieseltier
"An ornate twining and twisting of memory, myth, history and authorial self-consciousness
-- so many supple, rich strands." -- Gerald Marzorati, New York Times
"Interlacing myth, history, and familiar memories, Shammas 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." -- Library Journal
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