The Maze of the Last One

Written by Christopher Marrs (trans.) Mohammad al-Ahmad
Review by Barry Webb

This book purports to be a novel about the last Jewish family in Iraq.  While it does include some passages about a particular Jewish family in the small Iraqi town of Baquba, most of the book is a collection of vignettes about small town life on the part of the author, a Muslim Arab neighbor of the family.  Written in first person, it reads more like a memoir than a novel.  There is no discernible plot or story line.  However, even as a memoir there are issues, since the author will suddenly insert a vignette, or flashback, into a chapter that has nothing to do with the surrounding material.  It gives the impression of not even a rough draft, but of a collection of ideas for scenes for a rough draft stuck haphazardly into the author’s notebook which someone later published as is, without any attempt to arrange the paragraphs into some semblance of order.  This style of writing might appeal to the literary crowd under the guise of “experimental,” but this reviewer found it rough going.  On the positive side, the book will give the reader a snapshot look into everyday life in a small Iraqi town in the Sixties and Seventies.  The author also highlights the ingrained anti-Jewish feelings of most of Iraqi society and the serious travails that Jewish people had to suffer in Iraq.