Review: Memories Of Eden

By Miriam Halahmy, June 20, 2008

By Violette Shamash (edited by Mira and Tony Rocca)
Forum Books, £14.99

Violette Shamash was born in Baghdad in 1912 during Ottoman rule, and Memories of Eden is based on her unpublished memoirs, edited by her family. She recalls a life she compares to Paradise, in orchards of lemon and pomegranate, riding to school on a donkey, witnessing the appearance of the first matches and watches. Beautifully put together, with excellent photographs, Shamash’s account also attests to the harmony with Arab neighbours and describes how “we felt ourselves secure and integrated, rooted in the country we had been in since biblical times”. But as Nazism spreads eastwards, Shamash and her family also plan to escape to India. Her description of living through the Farhud — in which more Jews were murdered than on Kristallnacht — is terrifying.

Last updated: 3:17pm, February 18 2011