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John Lanchester, 5 January 1989

Arabesques 
by Anton Shammas, translated by Vivian Eden.
Viking, 263 pp., £11.95, November 1988, 0 670 81619 1
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Blösch 
by Beat Sterchi, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 353 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 571 14934 0
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A Casual Brutality 
by Neil Bissoondath.
Bloomsbury, 378 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7475 0252 8
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... Attentive readers of the Guardian’s news pages will already know about Arabesques. A 1986 report from Jerusalem told readers of a first novel by a 36-year-old writer which was making a big stir: it had already sold 22,000 copies. (An equivalent figure in Britain would be a hardback sale of 270,000.) A very important contributory factor behind the sensation the book was causing was the fact that its author, Anton Shammas, was an Arab writing in Hebrew, his ‘stepmother tongue ...

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