Dove Flyer-Eli Amir
novel in translation
An exploration of the Jewish community of Baghdad before their expulsion and resettlement in Israel in the 1950s.
Embarrassingly, I’ve recently realized that my nuanced understanding of the Middle East actually ends at about 2100BCE (Lagash/Gudea) and so I was almost completely unaware that there was a Jewish community in Baghdad. So this was a fascinating portrait of a community in transition that I had not actually expected. Amir explores the various tensions between the individual, the Jewish community, and the wider Arab majority-the ways they manifest and the various reactions/negotiations undertaken. My ignorance can perhaps be understood since the novel details the complete dismantle of the heritage-the complete erasure of the community. It’s tragic and too closely echoes what ISIS is doing in modern day Iraq.
The book itself was a slow to get into since there are just so many characters and unfamiliar geographies but midway through you have met everyone you will meet and you can relax into the atmospheric evocation of Baghdad. It helps that Kabi, the narrator, is genuinely likeable and so you end up caring about how he manages to work through this issue what home means.