The Israeli Republic “suggests how the Iranian and Israeli leaders who feel such intense mutual hostility today actually mirror one another in certain ways, particularly in their foundational attitudes toward religious authority, political and economic populism and the West. That a writer such as Al-e Ahmad, guru to the ayatollahs, liked Israel now seems touching. What he liked about Israel seems cautionary.”
—Bernard Avishai, Foreign Affairs
“My intellectual hero.”
—Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and No god but God
Paperback List Price: $14.99 • ISBN: 9781632061393 • Pub: 1/31/16 • 5” x 7.125” • 144 pages • Israel & Palestine History/Middle East Political Science • Territory: World • eBook List Price: $14.99
Written by a preeminent Iranian writer who helped lay the popular groundwork for the Iranian Revolution, The Israeli Republic should be required reading for Israelis, Iranians, and anyone interested in the ongoing conflict between them. Documenting Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s two-week-long trip to Israel in February of 1963, “Journey to the Land of Israel” caused a firestorm when it was published in Iran, upsetting the very revolutionary clerics whose anti-Western sentiments Al-e Ahmad himself had fueled. Yet, in the thriving Jewish State, Jalal Al-e Ahmad saw a model for a possible future Iran.
Based on his controversial travelogue, supplemented with letters between the author and Simin Daneshvar (his wife and yet another giant in Iranian literature), and translated into English for the first time, The Israeli Republic is a record of Al-e Ahmad’s idealism, insight, and ultimate disillusionment towards Israel. Vibrantly modern in its sensibility and fearlessly polemical, this book will change the way you think about the Middle East.
“The travelogue conjures up a long-lost era of calmness and curiosity between Iranians and Israelis, as well as the naive yet potent Third World ideology so common in developing countries at the time. But it is important for what it says, not just for what it represents. . . . That a writer such as Al-e Ahmad, guru to the ayatollahs, liked Israel now seems touching. What he liked about Israel seems cautionary.”
— Bernard Avishai, Foreign Affairs
“One of Iran’s leading writers and social critics.”
—The New York Times
“Al-e Ahmad thought Israel, as a Jewish spiritual homeland, could be a model for an Islamic utopia.”
“The Israeli Republic . . . reveals the idealism and disillusionment underlying modern conflict .”
“A rare and fascinating read.”
“The Israeli Republic should indeed be on required reading lists in both Israel and Iran .”
“This book recounts a fascinating journey undertaken by an Iranian intellectual to an Israel that existed primarily in the author’s mind. The kind of utopia Al-e Ahmad saw would strike many Israelis as odd. Yet, I am sure that every reader would find this book (and its excellent translation) to be a window on the prerevolutionary Iranian left at a time when it was possible for an Iranian intellectual to embrace certain aspects of Israeli society; to get a glimpse of the history of the Israel-Iran relations and the greater Middle East too.”
— Lior Sternfeld, Not Even Past
Jalal Al-e Ahmad was born to a clerical religious family in Tehran in 1923. Trained as a teacher, he worked in the profession on and off throughout his life. He joined the Communist Tudeh Party in 1943 and quickly rose through its ranks, becoming a member of the party committee for Tehran, before breaking with the Tudeh in 1947 in protest over Soviet influence. Al-e Ahmad was an influential and prolific writer and social critic, whose body of work includes short stories, notably the collection An Exchange of Visits; novels, particularly By the Pen and The School Principal; travelogues; anthropological studies; essays; reviews; and translations. His best known work is Gharbzadegi (Occidentosis), which has also been translated to English as Weststruckness, a cultural critique of Westernization in Iran. Al-e Ahmad was married to the novelist and translator Simin Daneshvar; the couple had no children. He died in 1969.
Simin Daneshvar (born April 28, 1921, Shiraz, Iran—died March 8, 2012, Tehran, Iran), was an Iranian author who wrote the enduringly popular Savūshūn (1969; published in English as Savushun: A Novel About Modern Iran, 1990, and as A Persian Requiem, 1991), the first modern Persian-language novel written by a woman. In 1948, while Daneshvar was studying Persian literature at the University of Tehran (Ph.D., 1949), she published a short-story collection, Atesh-e khamūsh (The Quenched Fire), the first such book by a woman to come out in Iran. She published a second collection, Shahrī chūn behesht (1961; A City as Paradise) before embarking on Savūshūn. Later novels include Jazīreh-ye Sargardānī (1992; The Island of Perplexity) and Sārebān-e sargardān (2002; Wandering Caravan Master). She was also known for her translations into Persian of such writers as Anton Chekhov and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Daneshvar was married (1950–69) to noted writer and intellectual Jalal Al-e Ahmad and taught art history at the University of Tehran from the late 1950s until her retirement in 1979.
Out in paperback with Restless Books on January 31, 2017.