A Local Habitation and A Name: A Literary and Cultural Reading of the Arabic Geographical names of the Land

Citation:

Dahamshy A. A Local Habitation and A Name: A Literary and Cultural Reading of the Arabic Geographical names of the Land.; 2017.
A Local Habitation and A Name: A Literary and Cultural Reading of the Arabic Geographical names of the Land

Abstract:

In the late 1950s, as part of a general mass immigration from Arab countries, many Iraqi Jews left or had to leave Iraq for Israel. In their encounter with a new society where Hebrew is the national language, most Iraqi Jewish authors found it impossible to continue writing in Arabic and had to face the literary challenge of switching to another tongue in order to be read. Clashes between origins and new cultures are likely to occur when geographical contexts change. In this regard, and unlike the typical emigration context when people move from east to west, moving from east to east exemplifies the experience of two Jewish authors, Shimon Ballas (b. Baghdad, 1930) and Eli Amir (b. Baghdad, 1937) alike. It is this complex situation that provides the backdrop to this study. Shimon Ballas and Eli Amir employ Arabic place names associated with Baghdad and/or Iraq in different ways in their Hebrew texts. This paper investigates the style of using Arabic place names in four Hebrew novels written by the two authors. The study argues that the place names brought by immigrant authors from their country of origin are not just names, but rather serve as codes and tools to transfer history, culture and traditions through a very minimal use of the mother tongue within literary texts, creating a sort of ‘bilingual’ final product.