Synopses & Reviews
Fiction. Haroun Soussan, narrator of OUTCAST and a Jewish convert to Islam, is a civil engineer and historian who's just completed his life's work, The Jews and History. The book opens with him getting an award from Saddam Hussein during the time of the Iran-Iraq war. Written in the form of an autobiography, the narrative moves in and out of the present, the recent, and more distant past, providing a unique and intimate chronicle of Iraq's contemporary political history. "For the Palestinian victims who became a minority in their homeland, he is one of them, as he is the unspoken vocie of conscience for Israeli Jews. This combination has made Ballas's voice unique in Middle Eastern writing, and completely outside the framework of the official political, biographical, and creative life of contemporary Israel. Reading this literature has been a way for me to discover my mirror and recover the other half of my soul"--Elias Khoury.
"A septuagenarian Israeli novelist who emigrated from Baghdad in 1951, Ballas fictionalizes the life of Ahmad Soussa, an Iraqi Jew who converted to Islam in the 1930s. Soussa ended up writing works used in anti-Jewish propaganda by Saddam Hussein's regime, and Ballas begins during the Iran-Iraq War of the mid-1980s, with his character, Ahmad Haroun Saussan, writing a memoir (this book) in which he tries to explain why he wrote The Jews in History, an enormous work taken up by the regime. What unfolds is Saussan's life story, the primal scene being his marriage to a non-Jewish American woman, Jane, when he's a visiting engineering grad student in the U.S. in the 1930s. The marriage results in Saussan's elder brother and acting family patriarch, Daniel, disowning Saussan and having him excommunicated from his hometown Jewish enclave at al-Hila. That trauma sets off a chain of events that ruins Saussan's marriage and makes for a too-pat justification for all of his subsequent actions. Ballas also assumes a familiarity with Iraqi history that most American readers won't have, but his writing in Saussan's unreliable voice is immediate, vivid and richly elusive. As a case study in the rationalization of personal and political contradiction, the novel is entirely clear." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Haroun Soussan, narrator of Outcast and a Jewish convert to Islam, is a civil engineer and historian who’s just completed his life’s work, The Jews and History. The book opens with him getting an award from Saddam Hussein during the time of the Iran-Iraq war. Written in the form of an autobiography, the narrative moves in and out of the present, the recent, and more distant past, providing a unique and intimate chronicle of Iraq’s contemporary political history.
Shimon Ballas was born in Baghdad in 1930 and immigrated to Israel in 1951.
"Tells more about Iraq than many commentaries being offered up these days." --Le Monde
About the Author
Shimon Ballas was born in Baghdad in 1930 and emigrated to Israel in 1951. A major novelist, Ballas has published fifteen works of fiction, several important studies on contemporary Arabic literature, and numerous translations from Arabic. Although he began his career in Arabic, Ballas switched to Hebrew in the mid 1960s. Ammiel Alcalay is a poet, translator, critic, and scholar who teaches at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, where he is the Deputy Chair of the PhD Program in English. His latest work is Scrapmetal (Factory School, 2006). He is also editor and translator of Keys to the Garden, and Semezdin Mehmedinovic's Sarajevo Blues, both published by City Lights. Oz Shelach, author and Journalist, was born in West Jerusalem in 1968.