Translated by Ammiel Alcalay, Oz Shelach
" . . . reveals more about modern Iraq than nearly all Americans put together know, and Ballas creates one of the most relevant, most important characters in contemporary fiction."
"Ballas fictionalizes the life of Ahmad Soussa, an Iraqi Jew who converted to Islam in the 1930s. . . . his writing . . . is immediate, vivid and richly elusive . . . As a case study in the rationalization of personal and political contradiction, the novel is entirely clear."
Los Angeles Times
"Outcast is the fictional memoir of Haroun Saussan, an Iraqi academic, a grandfather, a civil engineer and historian, a Jew who converted to Islam and the author of several books, including The Jews in History and My Path to Islam. Author Shimon Ballas bases his protagonist on Ahmad Soussa, a writer who converted to Islam in the 1930s and whose work, like Saussan's, was used (perverted) to support Saddam Hussein. Saussan, who does not consider himself an 'ideological man' but merely a scholar, is appalled to see his history of the Jews called a 'jihad against the Jews.' The novel opens in Iraq, at a ceremony in his honor, attended by the president. Saussan, alienated from his wife and daughter, feels like a stranger in his own home. He remembers his childhood in the Bedouin village of al-Hila, 'a sleepy town on the bank of the Euphrates.' He remembers his days as a student in America and his marriage to an American woman. He misses the 2-year-old son he left to return to Iraq alone. He finds himself caught between identities: 'a Muslim come from without.' Disturbing dreams help him to unify the disparate parts of his character and soothe his many regrets.
Rayyan Al-Shawaf, The Tennessean
" . . . at its core Outcast powerfully encapsulates the dilemma of minorities grappling with assimilation. Soussan loves Iraq and is hurt by the reluctance of many fellow Jews to identify wholly with their country. He advocates complete integration and the revocation of minority privileges."
"The story gives in inside look into life in Iraq before the war, leading up to and during Saddam Hussein’s reign...A good read for you historical/political buffs. Check it out."
—Adrione N. Council
The Jewish Daily Forward
". . . [Outcast] attempt[s] to bring to readers a consideration of ambiguities much grayer than the black and white of syndicated column and partisan punditry. . . Soussan, like Shimon Ballas, his creator, is a figure of extreme compromise, of virtuosic doubletalk, and unpracticed triple identity (as Iraqi, Jew and “Arab,” or Muslim). . . [Outcast is] indelibly engaging and violently immediate: If you read [it], you will lose sleep; the morning paper can always be used as a bookmark."
". . . it is hard to keep in mind that this is a novel because it is so rich in detail about what Iraqis are thinking and feeling. . . Through his account we are privy to many incidents and ideas that provide an intimate picture of Iraq and the turbulent times that country has had to endure. . . The author himself immigrated to Israel from Baghdad and was prolific in Arabic before switching to Hebrew. He seems uniquely qualified to present the dichotomy that unfolds in these pages. There is much to learn from and ponder in this work."
Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature
“But if the less knowledgeable reader has to take a breath now and again it is because Shimon Ballas has brilliantly succeeded in constructing a feel of the ski slope, chasms, and jumps of haunted memory. …Ballas gives his diarist a fluency which glides between the formal and the pensively emotional, and his translators serve him well.”
"Reading Shimon Ballas is a journey into the unknown part of the picture. This Iraqi writer who immigrated to Israel when he was a young man represents in his writing the none said in modern Hebrew literature. For the Palestinian victims who became a minority in their homeland, he is one of them, as he is the unspoken voice of conscience for Israeli Jews. This combination has made Ballas’s voice unique in Middle Eastern writing, and completely outside the framework of the official political, biographical, and creative life of contemporary Israel. Reading this literature has been a way for me to discover my mirror and recover the other half of my soul."
Elias Khoury, author of Gate of the Sun