“A wonderful memoir… It belongs on that small shelf of books which bear witness and, by doing so, become part of the literature of our times.” – Brian Moore
Farewell, Babylon is a memoir of a lost world, Baghdad, the magical city in which Iraq’s Kurds, Bedouins, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in a rough sort of harmony. The Iraqi Jewish community dates back 2500 years to Biblical Babylon, but by Kattan’s childhood in the 1940’s anti-semitism was on the rise and Nazi-sympathisers were threatening Baghdad’s Jewish community.
Naim Kattan takes readers into the heart of Baghdad’s then-teeming Jewish community. His Baghdad is a hot, quarrelsome city beset in equal parts by fear and desire. Its politics are frantic, its street life a mystery. Kattan evokes the colonial, Muslim-dominated society of his childhood and leaves an unforgettable portrait of Baghdad’s exoticism, and the political forces that shape it today.
Naim Kattan was born in Baghdad in 1928 and has published over 30 books. He has been awarded numerous international honours, including France’s Legion d’Honneur.
“Iraq’s most distinguished Jewish writer-in-exile… The plight of Jewry is recorded in Farewell, Babylon in spare, elegiac tones… A vital book.”
“Naim Kattan… tells of the last years in Baghdad, when Jews awaited the possibility – and the permits – to leave Iraq… also gives a poignant account of a young man seeking insight into the mysteries – and joys – of life in an inhibitory society.”
“Kattan… brings a first-hand immediacy to his Baghdad memoir which marks it out as a minor masterpiece of the genre… Shot through with an artless ardour which lingers long in the reader’s mind.”