Arabesques were written by Palestinian author Anton Shammas and were published in 2001. This novel tells a captivating story about the complex lives of Palestinian Christians, which is centered on Shammas' upbringing. During his youth, he studied at an integrated Jewish-Arab high school while in Haifa. He later studied English and Arabic literature and art history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after moving to Jerusalem.
Shammas lets readers explore a bittersweet world of spiritual devotion and political opposition that shapes the double consciousness of Palestinian Christians. In other words, taking on the dominant religion or culture of an opposing nation (Israel) has led these Palestinians to experience a clash between identity, memory, and history tied to Middle Eastern culture. This riveting novel even ties this complicated experience to places outside the Middle East, such as Iowa and New York. Arabesques were picked as a top book of 1988 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.
The novel follows the main character, Fraud, as he embarks on a journey to uncover his family's past and his own identity. He strives to reconcile the identities that his family has assumed due to their Palestinian Christian heritage. Faud's search for identity takes him from Haifa to Jerusalem, and then eventually to New York and Iowa, as he discovers his family's hidden history. The novel is a vivid reflection of the diverse and complex experiences of Palestinian Christians.
Naturally, readers can’t help but sympathize with Faud’s struggles to reconcile his identities, which are often at odds with one another. Faud’s journey is an exploration of identity, memory, and history, and is an illuminating window into the lives of Palestinian Christians. The novel also delves into the complex relationship between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Particularly, the novel provides insight into the complex dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the personal implications of the divide. In doing so, the novel offers a unique perspective on the conflict, often seen from a purely political or military lens.
The novel is ultimately a captivating story about the complexity of identity and the power of memory. It portrays a vivid portrait of the lives of Palestinian Christians as they struggle to balance their identities, memories, and histories. Through this riveting novel, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by Palestinians and other minority communities in the Middle East. Moreover, Arabesques has been acclaimed for its literary value and was selected as a top book of 1988 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review. It is a must-read for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the challenges faced by Middle Eastern minorities.