Faculty Book: Ammiel Alcalay, translator
Ammiel Alcalay and Oz Shelach, translators
Outcast by Shimon Ballas
(City Lights Publishers, 2007)
Shimon Ballas was born in Baghdad in 1930 and immigrated to Israel in 1951. Before retirement, he taught Arab Literature there, and now spends part of the year in Paris, where he does most of his writing. Outcast is narrated by Haroun Soussan, a Jewish convert to Islam. The character is based on a historical figure, Ahmad (Nissim) Soussa, who converted to Islam in the 1930s and whose work ended up being used as propaganda during the era of Saddam Hussein. Soussan is a civil engineer and historian who has just completed his life’s work, The Jews and History. The book opens with his getting an award from the President (Saddam Hussein) during the period of the Iran-Iraq War. The text we are reading, the novel, is his autobiography, written at the age of seventy, where he explores his own personal and political history, including his relationship with his daughter and his friends, among them a militant communist in political exile in Eastern Europe. Ammiel Alcalay is a professor of English and comparative literature at Queens College and The Graduate Center.
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Submitted on: MAY 1, 2007