Shimon Ballas was born in Baghdad in 1930 and emigrated to Israel in 1951. A major novelist, Ballas has published fifteen works of fiction, several important studies on contemporary Arabic literature, and numerous translations from Arabic. Although he began his career in Arabic, Ballas switched to Hebrew in the mid 1960s. Since then, Ballas, perhaps more than any other Israeli writer, has opened a window into the political and psychological life of the contemporary Arab world, both at home and in exile. His works consistently defy categorization, from the first Israeli novel to depict life among the Arab Jewish immigrants of the 1950s (The Transit Camp, 1964) or the portrayal of a Palestinian architect returning home for a visit after years in Europe (A Locked Room, 1980), to the depiction of a community of Middle Eastern political exiles in Paris (Last Winter, 1984) or the ruminations of a Jewish historian converted to Islam in Baghdad of the 1980s (Outcast, 1991). Other books by Ballas include Facing the Wall (1969), Essay from Baghdad (1970), Clarification (1972), Downtown (1979), The Heir (1987), Not in Her Place (1994), Solo (1998), and Tel Aviv East (1998). His important study, Arab Literature Under the Shadow of War, begun as his doctoral thesis for the Sorbonne, appeared in 1978. He continues to write critical works in Arabic, the most recent of which, Secular Trends in Arabic Literature, was published by the Iraqi exile publishing house al-Kamel Verlag, in Cologne, Germany. Ballas retired from the Department of Arabic Literature at Haifa University and now spends part of the year in Paris, where he does most of his writing.