Monday, 5 May 2014

The Dove Flyer: Eli Amir (Iraq)

When his Uncle Hizkel is arrested, Kabi and his family face an uncertain future as do all Jews living in 1950s' Baghdad. Each member of Kabi's circle has a different dream: his mother wants to return to the Moslem quarter where she felt safer; his father wants to emigrate to Israel and grow rice there while Salim, his headmaster, wants Arabs and Jews to be equal, and Abu Edouard just wants to continue to care for his beloved doves.

There have been quite a few books written on the effects on the Palestinians of the formation of the state of Israel, but this is the first book that tackles its nemesis - namely, the effects that the formation of Israel had on the Jews, in this case those living in the city of Baghdad, Iraq. I was surprised when I first came across this book to realise that there had in fact been a Jewish population in this country, until of course I remembered that this was the birthplace of that religion, as home to the Biblical Abraham.

The narrator of the story is the teenage Kabi, and the story is set as the blurb states, in the aftermath of World War 2 and subsequent persecution of Jews across not just Europe, but also the Middle East. The voices of many of Kabi's extended family and friends add to the story with their own hopes and dreams - while one feels safer by staying put, others wish to leave and join the exodus for the new state. The one thing they all have in common is hope - hope for a better life. In the background Kabi is growing to manhood and finding his own voice.

I found this at times quite a difficult read, not because of the subject matter, but more because of the length of the story (532 pages) and the myriad of different characters, which were at times difficult to remember. It was though worth persevering with, for this is an interesting subject which forms an important part in world history from both a religious and humanitarian point of view.

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