Publication Date: Mar 20, 2018
List Price US $15.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
List Price US $8.99
Inspired by true events, this best-selling Israeli novel traces a complex web of love triangles, homoerotic tensions, and family secrets across generations and borders, illuminating diverse facets of life in the Middle East.
The uneventful life of a jeweler from Tel Aviv changes abruptly in 2011 after Fareed, a handsome young man from Damascus, crosses illegally into Israel and makes his way to the ancient port city of Jaffa in search of his roots. In his pocket is a piece of a famous blue diamond known as “Sabakh.” Intending to return the diamond to its rightful owner, Fareed is soon swept up in Tel Aviv’s vibrant gay scene, and a turbulent protest movement. He falls in love with both an Israeli soldier and his boyfriend–the narrator of this book–and reveals the story of his family’s past: a tale of forbidden love beginning in the 1930s that connects Fareed and the jeweler.
Following Sabakh’s winding path, The Diamond Setter ties present-day events to a forgotten time before the establishment of the State of Israel divided the region. Moshe Sakal’s poignant mosaic of characters, locales, and cultures encourages us to see the Middle East beyond its violent conflicts.
Excerpt from The Diamond Setter
According to the map, Rami’s apartment was not far. Fareed turned right on Sha’arei Nikanor Street. There was a shop on the corner selling charcoal and hookahs, and just after that a Jewish-Arab youth club, across the street from a daycare center. Further down the road was a house, and then another house that Fareed stood and stared at for several minutes through the gate. It had a pomegranate tree in the garden, and two stone lions worn by time and rain perched on either side of the front steps. He tore himself away and kept walking down the narrow street. Every so often he saw graffiti on the walls: waqaha, one of them read, in Arabic, and then explained in what Fareed assumed was Hebrew: chutzpah. Similar translations were provided for other words: khatar—danger, and huriyya—freedom.
When he passed the third house on the left, his heart started pounding. But he didn’t dare stop, only gave the house a sideways glance. The road curved downhill, and the old houses gave way to new marble buildings two or three stories high. Then, straight ahead, between two buildings, he saw the sea. The Yafa sea.
At the end of the street stood a restaurant with tables scattered around the courtyard. A group of people sat drinking beer, smoking, and eating out of dishes piled with maqluba. Fareed turned the corner, and after passing a very old building, he finally recognized Rami’s house from the picture: a two-story building with a grand but crumbling entrance; only the windows attested to the residence’s glorious past. Three steps led up to the front door. A ginger cat lay sprawled across the second step, serenely licking her nipples. Fareed walked in and went up to the second floor. He stopped outside the door and steadied his breath. He knocked twice, and when there was no answer, a third time. The door finally opened.
“Lush, imaginative, and seductive, Moshe Sakal’s The Diamond Setter offers a perfect combination of passion, suspense, insight, and beauty. Jessica Cohen’s brilliant translation only further enhances the reading experience, making it into a true literary treat.” —Ruby Namdar, author of The Ruined House
“With beautiful and loving language, Sakal looks through the eyes of [his characters] to tell a story of Jaffa and Damascus in the early part of the last century, and today. The pages exude the aromas of a vibrant life that has since vanished.” —Haaretz
“A wonderfully written novel, sweeping and engrossing.” —Jerusalem Post
“The Diamond Setter is a novel bathed in mystery…Sakal has devised a fascinating family mythology.” —Ynet (Yedioth Ahronoth)
“A rich and delightful novel…[Sakal] offers a renewed consideration of our lives in this place—where today walls are built, and once there were no borders.” —Nana 10