Exile from Exile

Israeli Writers from Iraq

By Nancy E. Berg

Subjects: Israel Studies
Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies
Paperback : 9780791429808, 212 pages, July 1996
Hardcover : 9780791429792, 212 pages, July 1996

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Table of contents



Part One. The Literature of Exile and Iraqi Jewish Writing

1. Exile, Literature, and Jewish Writers

2. The Jewish Community in Iraq

3. Jewish Writers of Modern Iraqi Fiction

Part Two. Narrative Writings of the Iraqi Jews in Israel

4. The Choice of Language

5. The Experience of Transition: First Novels in Hebrew

6. Childhood in Iraq: Narratives in Arabic

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

8. Conclusion





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.

Nancy E. Berg is Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.


"The topic of this book is significant as both a study of the psychological and literary problems faced by the 'exiled' of emigrewriters and their roles within the context of Israeli literature. It is by far the most comprehensive and profound treatment of this subject. " --Spicehandler, Hebrew Union College

"Berg's study is well documented, and she writes with an in-depth understanding of the literary texts she deals with. " — Hebrew Studies

"A solid and illuminating presentation of a socioliterary phenomenon in Israeli literature and culture which has been known so far only in part. Beyond its subject matter, the book provides insight as to the nature of emigreliterature at large. " -- Dan Laor, Tel Aviv Universityy

"This work is extremely useful in cogently presenting the narrative of a particular culture along with some taste of the literary works produced in it. I believe that there should be interest in it amongst a general readership and that it will be adopted for classroom use. I think it is of utmost importance that scholarly works about this neglected aspect of Jewish and Israeli culture find their way into the changing discourse of these subjects. " — Ammiel Alcalay, City University of New York, Queens College