Naim Kattan, the grand old man of letters born in 1928 in
Marina Benjamin, a successful journalist and author born in London in 1964 of Iraqi-Jewish parents, has written ‘Last days in Babylon’, the story of the final years of the Baghdad Jewish community seen through the eyes of her grandmother, who was born in 1905.
The two authors came face to face at a session entitled ‘Remembering Babylon’, chaired by the Baghdad-born artist Linda Dangoor-Khalastchi.
Why did both authors choose titles containing the word ‘
Marina Benjamin’s book, on the other hand, was part history, part memoir, part travelogue. Looking inwards and writing from the margins, an outsider like herself gains perspective. “Last days in
But Naim Kattan explained that this feeling of Jewish entrenchment in
Marina Benjamin referred to the heady days after the end of the First Word War when the British installed Emir Faisal as king of the new state of
Kattan said that Jews were in
Compelled by a ‘Who am I?’curiosity, Marina Benjamin had gone to
Naim Kattan was utterly secure in his identity as an Iraqi Jew. When much later in
When Kattan’s book came out in Arabic he was reproached for exaggerating the role of the Jews. As the people of the Book, on the other hand, he thought the Jews had a special responsibility to write their own history.
He felt no nostalgia for
In moving from East to West, Naim had to change his language and culture, but his love of one language and culture did not stop him loving another. He re-invented himself in the three places he had lived in –
Naim Kattan had been invited to return to
In short, when it came to ‘remembering