Wednesday, October 08, 2008

MY FATHER'S PARADISE, by Ariel Sabar, is reviewed by David Shasha in The American Muslim. Excerpt:
The academic work of Yona Sabar has manifested itself in a book-lengthy study of Kurdish Jewish folklore culled from the many hours of interviews that he did over many years of arduous work and in a dictionary of the language published in 2002. It would not be an understatement to say that Yona Sabar – the hero of his son’s brilliant book – is a monumental figure in the contemporary intellectual history of the Middle Eastern Jews. He has almost single-handedly brought his community’s culture to the public square and has been a tireless champion of its civilization.

It is thus gratifying that after many years of cynicism, apathy and disdain – the standard lament of the contemporary Sephardim – Ariel Sabar has sought to lionize his father by elevating Yona’s often obscure academic work and presenting it in a deftly readable and emotionally rewarding book.

My Father’s Paradise is that rarest of things: A book written out of a sense of pure devotion and love of tradition that serves the average reader with a rich smorgasbord of memorable characters and stories. It will enchant and enlighten the reader at the same time. It is a book that is to be cherished and savored for its wonderful portrayal of a community whose history has been largely forgotten; a community that is part of the natural landscape of our Middle Eastern world.

In a marvelously fluid prose style, Sabar details the history and the culture of a society that is most definitely worth knowing. It is not merely another Middle Eastern Jewish memoir/history that recounts what we already know in a straightforward fashion. It is a work where fragments are indeed made whole.
Background here and here. Cross file under "Aramaic watch."