Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew (Hardcover)
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A unique coming-of-age story from the lost world of Arab-Jews
In July 1950, Avi Shlaim, only five, and his family were forced into exile, fleeing their beloved Iraq to the new state of Israel.
'Remarkable.' Max Hastings, THE SUNDAY TIMES
Today the once flourishing Jewish community of Iraq, at one time numbering over 130,000 and tracing its history back 2,600 years, has all but vanished.
Why so? One explanation speaks of the timeless clash between Arab and Jewish civilisations and a heroic Zionist mission to rescue Eastern Jews from backward nations and unceasing persecution.
Avi Shlaim tears up this script. His parents had many Muslim friends in Baghdad and no interest in Zionism. As anti-Semitism surged in Iraq, the Zionist underground fanned the flames. Yet when Iraqi Jews fled to Israel, they faced an uncertain future, their history was rewritten to serve a Zionist narrative.
This memoir breathes life into an almost forgotten world. Weaving together the personal and the political, Three Worlds offers a fresh perspective on Arab-Jews, caught in the crossfire of Zionism and nationalism.
A TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT BOOK OF THE YEAR 2023
'A beautifully written book which artfully blends the personal with the political.' Justin Marozzi, SPECTATOR
'Three Worlds, by the Oxford historian of the modern Middle East Avi Shlaim, is an often enchanting memoir of his childhood in Baghdad... A gripping account... A lost world in Iraq is brilliantly brought back to life in this fascinating memoir.' David Abulafia, FINANCIAL TIMES
About the Author
Avi Shlaim was born in Baghdad and grew up in Israel. He is now a Professor of International Relations at St Antony's College, Oxford. His previous books include the critically acclaimed The Iron Wall and he writes regularly for the Guardian, Middle East Eye and other outlets.
'This remarkable upside-down tale… A personal story, not a polemic… provocative… His personal odyssey confers on Shlaim an exceptional authority for his words; he can say things that others of us cannot… his thesis deserves to be considered with respect.' —Max Hastings, The Sunday Times
'At the heart of this riveting and profoundly controversial book is Shlaim’s investigation into the Baghdad bombings against Jewish targets in 1950 and 1951… This is a beautifully written book which artfully blends the personal with the political. The recollections of family life in both its glory and its anguished tribulations are vividly recreated. Shlaim’s is a powerful and humane voice which reminds us that the Palestinians were not the only victims of the creation of Israel in 1948.' —Spectator
'Three Worlds, by the Oxford historian of the modern Middle East Avi Shlaim, is an often enchanting memoir of his childhood in Baghdad... A gripping account... A lost world in Iraq, which is brilliantly brought back to life in this fascinating memoir.' —David Abulafia, Financial Times
'[An] absorbing, contentious memoir… Even if it “cannot be rebuilt”, Three Worlds, quite marvellously, brings [the old world of Iraq] back to life.' —TLS
'An intimate and engaging life story that forces the reader to re-examine three very different worlds – Iraq, Israel and Britain – in the middle decades of the twentieth century. A reflective and insightful plunge into the identity politics of the Arab-Jew by one of Britain’s greatest public intellectuals. But also the best book I’ve read all year.' —Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs
'This memoir is an engrossing personal narrative as well as a historian’s penetrating reflection on the misfortune of the "other victims" of Zionism: Jews exiled from their old Arab homelands where they were well integrated, and transplanted to Israel, to serve as a subaltern class of the Hebrew settler nation.' —Moshé Machover
'Three Worlds juxtaposes a fascinating family story, unfolding across Iraq, Israel, and the UK, with an intriguing historical account of Iraqi Jews during an especially calamitous period. Here the preeminent scholar of the Arab–Israeli conflict furnishes a precious personal glimpse into a past in which Arab-Jews figure prominently, generating a more subtle and multilayered picture of the partition of Palestine and its aftermath.' —Ella Shohat, author of On the Arab-Jew
'[Shlaim’s] mizrahi roots and experience produce a raw nerve, the emotional and psychological wellspring of his later oeuvre and politics… His personal story is moving, and it is told with atypical, engrossing candor… Three Worlds is very readable, like everything that Shlaim writes.' —Benny Morris, Tablet
'In this detailed, resonant account, historian Shlaim recalls the complexities of growing up as an Arab Jew in Iraq and Israel… Those interested in alternative Jewish attitudes toward Zionism will find this illuminating.' —Publishers Weekly
'Sharply observed, and without stridency, in making a case for an ecumenical Israel.' —Kirkus
‘Brave… Well written and informative, this is a fascinating glimpse into a forgotten world.’ —Tablet
'Vivid… This luminous memoir… offers readers a chance to reimagine life not ruled by force, fear, deceit and exclusion.' —Middle East Eye
'Avi Shlaim’s intriguing, ideologically-driven book, Three Worlds, is a bitter-sweet autobiography of an accomplished Iraqi Jew who left his homeland under duress, an impassioned look back at Iraq’s lost Jewish community, and a stinging critique of Zionism and Israel.' —Times of Israel