Philip Jenkins of The Christian Century calls Antoon “a Star of modern Arab fiction”

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Published by Philip Jenkins for The Christian Century, June 29, 2018

Sinan Antoon is a star of modern Arab fiction, a multiply honored novelist whose books address critical questions of identity, memory, and history. He has an Iraqi Christian background but teaches at New York Univer­sity—a dislocation that resembles that of so many Middle Eastern Chris­tians in recent years. Antoon’s most recently translated novel, The Baghdad Eucha­rist, offers Westerners an unparalleled opportunity to understand these events. The book traces the historic catastrophe that has overcome—and is now uprooting—one of the world’s oldest Chris­tian communities.
Antoon’s account of the family’s Christian faith is beautifully measured. Youssef is anything but a fanatic, and he is quite prepared to contemplate converting to Islam if it will win him the woman he loves. Yet family members attend church regularly, and older relatives are passionately involved in their devotions, with a special love for the Holy Mother, Mary. What they all have in common is that Christianity is part of their most basic identity: it is the air they breathe.

The Baghdad Eucharist offers many lessons, not least about the political trajectory that it describes. Antoon has condemned the U.S. invasion in 2003 as a crime of historic proportions, which performed the near miracle of creating a situation worse than that prevailing under Saddam Hussein. But the Gorgis family saga also tells us much about Middle Eastern Christianity more generally—about its historic connections with the land and the global diaspora that has now become a central reality of existence. Other Christian communities in the region, especially Egypt’s Copts, must read it with trepidation. Read article

 Photo by Ibtissam Azzam.

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