“The Book of Disappearances”

Set in contemporary Tel Aviv forty eight hours after Israelis discover all their Palestinian neighbors have vanished, the novel The Book of Disappearances unfolds through alternating narrators, Alaa, a young Palestinian man who converses with his dead grandmother in the journal he left behind when he disappeared, and his Jewish neighbor, Ariel, a journalist struggling to understand the traumatic event.


The Book of Disappearances by Ibtisam Azem, translated by Sinan Antoon.

2 comments on ““The Book of Disappearances”

  1. Gregg says:

    I read this book 3 weeks ago, and it’s written extremely well from different perspectives that allow the reader to see all sides of the story as it unfolds, and as the main characters develop and change quickly before our eyes. In many ways it reminds me of the 1922 book “The City Without Jews” written by the Austrian Jewish author Hugo Bettauer, as well as the 1925 dystopian novel “Berlin Without Jews” by German author Arthur Landsberger, who both (with keen eyes to their times) envisioned similar scenarios of “what if…” all the Jews of Vienna and Berlin (respective to each book) disappeared. A more recent (and satirical) similarity is found in the US 2004 film “A Day Without a Mexican” by Sergio Arau. After reading Ibtisam Azem’s “The Book of Disappearances” I searched online and I don’t see in any of her interviews or reviews that she was aware that these earlier iterations of a similar theme, which in no way detracts from her very insightful and quick-paced novel. I will read “The Book of Disappearances” again in years to come, and I look forward to more works coming from this author.

    1. Gregg says:

      Allow me to post 3 quick comments (as I don’t see an option to edit my original post):

      1. My post above is in no way political, so rather than be tempted to “read into” my words something that I quite simply did not say, I’d like to emphasize that I was making a literary comparison between several works which share some (not all) common themes.

      2. Arthur Landsberger was a German-Jewish author (not simply a German author).

      3. If you like reading dystopian novels in order to see things from perspectives you might not have otherwise ever thought about (or if you simply live in Tel Aviv and Jaffa and “light up” when you read about landmarks and people that you’re intimately familiar with) you will also find value in reading this book.

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