Yitzḥak Gormezano Goren published his novel Alexandrian Summer in 1978, but it has only lately been translated into English. André Aciman reviews the novel, which is based on the author’s own childhood:
The military coup that was to overthrow King Farouk in 1952 and, with his ouster, eventually dissolve all remnants of multi-national life in Egypt, can only confirm the [narrator’s family’s] sense that life as they’d known it in Alexandria was fast coming to an end. Surging anti-Western and anti-Semitic rhetoric on the streets and in radio broadcasts had turned Egypt into a tinderbox that was to explode with the Suez Canal war of 1956, a war that proved disastrous to Egypt’s European community. French and British nationals were instantly expelled, their exodus immediately followed by the expulsion of the majority of Egypt’s 85,000 Jews, most of whose ancestors had been living along the Nile and its Delta for more than a millennium and long before the advent of Islam.
Alexandrian Summer is a nostalgic, farewell portrait of a world that was fast expiring but still refused to see that history had written it off. . . . This, after all, was a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-sexual, multi-everything society where Coptic, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox lived tolerably well together and where multilingualism was the order of the day. Everyone was part Levantine, part European, part Egyptian, and one-hundred-percent hodgepodge, just as everyone’s sentences were spiced with words and expressions lifted from French, Italian, Arabic, Ladino, Turkish, Greek, English, and whatever else came by. Tart-to-toxic bons mots in a mix of six to eight languages could singe you just enough to shake you up but without causing any damage. Similarly, the mix of populations was never perfect, and cultures and creeds jostled one another without scruple. There again, the tussling was amicable enough and never deadly. But no one was fooled for long.
More about: Arab anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Egypt, Ladino, Mizrahi Jewry, Suez Crisis