Tenants and Cobwebs
Sadak Masliyah (translation)
Paperback, 400 pages
A multilayered novel following the intimate lives of Jewish and Muslim residents of an apartment complex in 1940s Baghdad.
"A rare work of fiction in terms of language, history,and contemporary politics of pluralistic cultures. Written in Arabic by a speaker of Hebrew, among other languages, chronicling a period of utmost significance for the region, and demonstrating the will to coexist under harsh circumstances, the work is a valuable source of knowledge and entertainment." — Shakir Mustafa, editor of Contemporary Iraqi Fiction
Samir Naqqash’s stirring novel Tenants and Cobwebs nostalgically commemorates the lost culture of an ancient Iraqi Jewish minority living amidst a majority Muslim population in 1940s Baghdad. The plot unfolds during a time of great turmoil: the rise of Iraqi nationalism and anti-Jewish sentiment fueled by Nazi propaganda; the Farûd, a bloody pogrom carried out against Jewish residents of Baghdad in 1941; and the founding of Israel in 1948. These pivotal events profoundly affected Muslim-Jewish relationships, forever changing the nature of the Jewish experience in Iraq and eventually leading to a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews to Israel in 1951.
Tenants and Cobwebs deftly narrates the lives of Jewish characters who refuse to leave Baghdad despite these tumultuous times as well as those who are compelled to leave but nonetheless cling to the life they know. While the Jewish residents appear to live peacefully and harmoniously in the same Baghdad apartment complex as their Muslim neighbors, Naqqash gives voice to their conflicting thoughts and feelings, revealing the deepening tensions between the two groups. His innovative use of Baghdadi Jewish and Muslim dialects captures the complex and nuanced emotions of his characters.