BOOK REVIEW: The Wolf of Baghdad by Carol Isaacs

March 12, 2020

The Wolf of Baghdad

Carol Isaacs (The Surreal McCoy)

In the 1940s a third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish. Within a decade nearly all 150,000 had been expelled, killed or had escaped. This beautiful gentle but candid graphic memoir of a lost homeland is a wordless narrative by an author homesick for a home she has never visited.

A snatch of music takes us to an ancestral home in the old Jewish quarter of Baghdad, the narrative leads us literally through the streets and up into houses, we sleep on the roof looking up at the sky full of stars. It’s domestic, cosy but the people with us are ghosts, shadows etched into the fabric of the buildings. In between pages of journey and discoveries we have very short statements from people who recall their time living in Baghdad, just a few highly descriptive lines of family life which give us the narrative for the illustrations on the next few pages.

The history is one of successful integration with communities living side by side, next and with each other, for millennia. We see people’s families interlinked and markets, homes and neighbourhoods flourish, but then the mood turns darker.   The rise of nationalism in Iran and Germans fuels anti-Semitic attitudes, the Nazi’s seed this with more toxic propagandas of hate and exclusion. The word turns dark for this ancient community and attacks, looting and murders beginning, pogroms devastate the community. All recorded in the same quiet hand of the author, the Wolf, like us, looking on knowing the end.

As a personal narrative it’s a superb book, you sink into it and it enfolds you with its magical charm. The very limited text doesn’t give space for exploring many of the nuances of Jewish Arabic interactions, but the afterword offers some more insight.  I was enchanted by this book.

Out now £16.99

For more info or to buy this book see the publishers website here: