For the Independent, Moris Farhi reviews Aron Hilu's new novel Death of a Monk, translated from the Hebrew by Evan Fallenberg.
"Death of a Monk is a fictionalised account of the historical event known as "the Damascus Affair". Though Hilu has altered some facts - another family, the Hararis, were accused of killing (the monk) Tomaso while the Farhis were charged with killing the monk's servant - he remains faithful to events. (...)
"Yet, for this reviewer at least, the neglect of the affair's historical context and repercussions in favour of (the main protagonist Aslan Farhi) 's fantasies diminishes the potential power of the novel. The blood libel, following its first occurrence in Norwich in 1144 and despite Innocent IV's repudiation of it in 1247, caused enormous suffering to Jews. The accusation is rife even today in such countries as Syria, Iran and Russia."Paradoxically, the Damascus Affair proved to be a watershed. Its eruption in a Muslim country, in relatively modern times, served to unite the Diaspora Jews against the murderous prejudice they endured. This, in the first instance, ensured the release of the accused Jews. But it also led to the creation of such organisations as the Alliance Israélite Universelle and, indeed, of the Zionist movement."
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