‘Diary of a Muslim Jew’: And Yes, That’s the Book’s Title

Arabic Literature (in English)

We have become so accustomed to thinking of religion as a place of singularity in human identity that Diary of a Jewish Musilm gives all the shock in translation that author Kamal Ruhayyim surely intended in the original:

download (2)It was — as I have written earlier — beginning about a decade ago that films and novels that foregrounded ordinary Arab Jews began to appear, set in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Algeria. Among these were Syrian novelist Ibrahim al-Jubain’s Diary of a Damascus Jew (2007), Iraqi novelist Ali Bader’s The Tobacco Keeper (2008), and Ali al-Muqri’s The Handsome Jew (2009). The latter two were widely discussed and also longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Kamal Ruhayyim’s Exhausted Hearts: The Muslim Jew (2004) was among the first of these new novels. Exhausted Hearts, translated by Sarah Enany and published in English as Diary of a Muslim Jew (2014) was the opening…

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