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After Jews and Arabs

Remaking Levantine Culture

1992
Author:

Ammiel Alcalay

After Jews and Arabs

“Painstakingly, brick by brick, he has reconstructed a shared literary and historical tradition that has linked Arab and Oriental Jewish thought for the better part of a millennium.” --Victor Perera

“Painstakingly, brick by brick, he has reconstructed a shared literary and historical tradition that has linked Arab and Oriental Jewish thought for the better part of a millennium.” --Victor Perera

Ammiel Alcaly’s book is among the most exciting and important to have appeared in recent years on the subject of Jews and Arabs and the wider link with Levantine culture.

Ariel

By exposing the rich and diverse textual and cultural legacy of this time and space, Alcalay reassesses the exclusion of Semitic culture in Europe from the perspective of contemporary Arabic culture and opposing images of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This book will compel a revision of Jewish studies by placing contemporary Israeli culture within its Middle Eastern context and the terms of colonial, postcolonial, and multicultural discourse.

After Jews and Arabs

Ammiel Alcalay is a writer, translator, and poet living in New York City. Currently an assistant professor of classical and Oriental literatures at Queens College (CUNY), he has written numerous articles on literary and historical politics in the cultures of the Mediterranean.

After Jews and Arabs

Ammiel Alcaly’s book is among the most exciting and important to have appeared in recent years on the subject of Jews and Arabs and the wider link with Levantine culture.

Ariel

The thesis in this difficult but important first book by Alcalay is that conventional modes of interpreting Western civilization- its history and belief in its own superiority to other cultures- have left little room for the complex play of Semitic and non-Semitic culture in the Levant, and for the roles of Arabs and Jews in the formation of European cultures. Alcalay, an associate professor of classical literature at Queens College (N.Y.), writes about the West’s neglect of Jewish writers and thinkers from the Arab world and the Levant, about the suppression of Sephardic culture by a vehemently Eurocentric Zionism and about the relationship of `the native Jew to a native space, namely the Levant,’ as a counterbalance to the myth of the Jew as an eternally wandering `other.' The book is also a valuable introduction to Levantine Hebrew and Arabic literatures, both medieval and modern, that have received little or no critical attention in English. One can only hope that this book will trigger interest in the work of Hebrew novelists Yitzhaq Shami and Yehuda Burla, essayist Eliyahu Eliachar and dozens of other writers cited by Alcalay, so that these works will become available in the U.S.

Publishers Weekly

In discussing Juan Goytisolo, Ammiel Alcalay writes of ‘the kind of internal and external attack on received ideas that can radically realign the past, snap it back into an entirely different focus.’ This is precisely his own accomplishment in After Jews and Arabs, a passionate and fervently erudite revision of Levantine culture. Alcalay’s Levant is a roomy mansion of letters, an exemplification of Adonis’s line ‘Only poetry knows how to marry this space.’ Armed with his faith in art, Alcalay ranges from the Inquisition to Franco, from Damascus to Andalusia to today's Jerusalem, redefining the study of Mediterranean culture. Like a scholarly Edmond Jabes, he uses his imagination to leap borders. . . . By the end of this book, his first, he succeeds in dismantling ‘those bloated signifiers “Arab” and “Jew”’ and returning to all of us what we can now in all frankness and without shame be called Levantine writing and Levantine art.

Voice Literary Supplement

Alcalay’s splendid work takes as its target the tropes of dispersion and exile as they have come to define the central narrative of modern Jewish history. Alcalay has succeeded magnificently in demonstrating the extraordinary cultural richness and complexity that exists to be recovered in the history of the peoples and cultures of the Levantine world. He also provides an important service by revealing the ideological baggage informing contemporary curriculum assumptions, such as the Romance culture and Arabic culture are so different as to be almost unbridgeable-an incomprehensible idea to a twelfth-century Parisian. Yet his most important contribution may ultimately derive from his vision of the history of Levantine culture as a source of possibility for the future.

SubStance

The author places contemporary Israeli culture within its Middle Eastern context and the terms of colonial, postcolonial, and multicultural discourse.

Shofar