Mohammed Eissa al-Mu’adab
Before departing for Marseilles, fleeing German aggression in Tunis, the Jewish minority community hid all records of their history in the ground under the hamam (Turkish bath or spa) in the Al-Hara district. This mysterious, forgotten history intrigues Helen, the novel’s main protagonist. A Jewish Tunisian living in France, she embarks on a journey to discover her roots, returning to Tunis and specialising in the study of history. On the way to uncovering the hidden secret, she meets Saad, a Muslim student from Tunisia, and they fall in love. Interwoven with this story is a legend about the hamam, which tells how the floor gave way, revealing gold, and how a woman bathing there was kidnapped by an evil spirit. Through these two interwoven tales, the novel asks questions relevant to the present, touching on identity, extremism and the power of belonging to the same place (here, Tunisia), despite the ethnic and religious differences existing within it.