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Articles tagged "Israeli Literature"

New in Hebrew: Shifra Cornfeld’s \“The Second Half of the Night\”

My husband and I both read The Second Half of the Night, by Shifra Cornfeld, in one breathless week, so excited about it that I can’t even recall who read it first and who passed it on to whom. Then we gave it to a friend. Then quickly took it back so we could give it to our mothers. It was a gift that had to keep moving, making the rounds, so that no one would be left out.          Cornfeld’s personal history is quickly becoming the stuff of lore to...

Hunting for Trilobites: An Interview with Dror Burstein

I met Dror Burstein on a cool May morning on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His wry, slow-burning humor is easy to relate to the gently idiosyncratic style of his writing. Words without Borders published his story “The Dakar Courier” in 2010, and I was fresh off reading Netanya, his latest book to appear in English (just released by Dalkey Archive Press in a mesmerizing translation by Todd Hasak-Lowy). We talked about the lack of trilobites in Hebrew literature (the...

Ludwig and I Kill Hitler for No Reason (or, A Berlin Springtime)

"Another piece of pepperoni?" Ludwig offered generously. "Thanks, I'm full." I patted my stomach. "Full," Ludwig repeated the word, enchanted. "It's been so long since I heard that word." He glanced affectionately at the pepperoni stick lying on the uncovered table, as if looking at an old friend who'd helped him relive a pleasant childhood experience, and stroked the peel nostalgically. From time to time, they could hear the shelling out there and if you pressed your...

A Necessary Distance from Reality: An Interview with Rutu Modan

Rutu Modan is a rarity. One of the few established comics artists in Israel, she is also one of the few established female comics artists in the world. After graduating from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Modan began writing and illustrating comic strips and stories for Israel's leading daily newspapers, as well as editing the Israeli edition of MAD magazine with Yirmi Pinkus. In 1995, she and Pinkus cofounded Actus Tragicus, an internationally acclaimed collective...

Velocity

I met her on the day that I divorced the sow. She came up to me and asked if I wanted a hug. She was wearing a black T-shirt with the words “International Hug Day” emblazoned on it. Behind her trailed a flock of smiling huggers. On any other day I would have yelled at them to go get a real job, since I knew they were the type who turn the celebration of “international days”—days like “No-Smoking Day,” “Family Day,” “Accident-Free...

Spider

Your long years of service in this institution entitle you to at least this one privilege. You get your double espresso in a real cup over the heads of the students crowded around the counter, and you go find a seat at one of the tables. To say your spirits are low would be a wild understatement. You try to withdraw into yourself, but all you find there are fathomless recesses of blackness, gloom, and self-loathing. You’ve just come out of a class to which only a third of the...

Diary

At eight in the morning I looked at my watch and it was eight o’clock. At nine-thirty I looked at my watch and it was nine-thirty. At eleven in the morning I looked at my watch and it was ten to eleven. At twelve noon I looked at my watch and it was twenty to twelve. At one in the afternoon I looked at my watch and it was twelve-twenty. At four in the afternoon I looked at my watch and it was twelve-twenty. And at quarter past five when I looked at my watch it was still...

from “What You Wished For”

The Kid was back. Ziggy heard the dog’s toenails clicking on the floor while he did his usual dance. But for the Kid the dog also added yelps of joy to the ritual. The dog was more attached to the Kid than to Ziggy, or to his Wife or to the Uncle, who was his original owner. “Lucky, you goddamn sonofabitch you,” Ziggy heard the Kid say to the dog in a babyish tone of affection. He was seventeen, his only son, tall and thin and fair-eyed like his mother, clumsy and...

Meir Shalev’s “My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner”

Back in the 1920s, Sigmund Freud was presenting his theories on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—“unquestionably the most interesting” area of analytic research, in his opinion—little aware that in Palestine there lived a young Russian Jewish settler whose extreme aversion to dirt, and the complex routines she developed to cope with that aversion, would have made for a uniquely valuable case study. Happily for psychological posterity and for us, Tonia Ben-Barak and her...

Islamorada

During the twilight hours of one day in January, the professor and his wife arrived at a small motel on the beach at Islamorada, and checked in. After the New Year’s Eve parties, the place had emptied of guests.  It was hot and humid. Seaweed and snails piled up along the main road. Alongside the boats that docked in the marina, pelicans stood like statues on beams of rotted wood. The couple were exhausted and sweaty after their long drive.  They showered, changed into...

from “Soul Mate”

My father-in-law, Feibush, arrived unannounced at my doorstep in the middle of the week. I was writing out a mezuzah and so, fortunately, my cabinet of secular books was closed. Feibush’s eyes brightened when he saw the parchment, the quill in my hand, and the large yarmulke upon my head. Only when his gaze rested upon the closed book cabinet did a kind of cloud descend over his face. I suspected that he knew full well what trials and tribulations hid upon those shelves. And though...

from “Almost Dead”

I climbed aboard the Little No. 5 as I did every morning on my way to work. “Little No. 5” is what I call the minibus-sized cab which follows the route of the No. 5 bus. It’s actually a cross between a bus and a cab. You get the best of both worlds—the familiar route and the cheapness of the bus, but they’ve got the speed of a cab and you can hail them and get off where you like. And since there are bombs all the time, I only ever took Little No. 5s to work...

from “Farm 54”

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Galit Seliktar and Gilad Seliktar map a soldier's first evacuation

The graphic novel Farm 54 brings together three semi-autobiographical stories from the childhood, puberty, and early adulthood (military service years) of its female protagonist, growing up in Israel’s rural periphery in the 1970s and 1980s. The stories present the disturbing underground dimensions of adolescence, and the dangers and traumas that subvert the superficial tranquility of youth in the countryside. While these Israeli childhood stories take place in the shadow of war and...

Trumpet Lessons

Now he’s cold and he doesn’t believe it and he’s crying. Later there would be long mornings of playing in the sandbox and a pretty horrible memory that had something to do with a neighbor’s dog that had come off its leash, then a huge collection of matchboxes, one would even come from Japan, and years of trumpet lessons and a gymnastics class as well and the time everybody laughed at him because he fell off the rings and a long walk to the municipal library twice...

How Old is the Queen of England?

The old dog lumbers beside me, exhaling and inhaling laboriously and tracking my steps with her bowed head turned white with old age. Owls perch on the branches canopying the path, against the indigo background of the darkening sky. They give us sideways glances and emit long whistles like rubber toys. Their eyes are open in wonderment. It's a familiar route. It begins at the breach in the concrete fence, shortly before sunset, and ends at the exact same place half an hour later. A...

The First Love

Once I happened to visit a fishing village in the Andaman Sea, west of the Malay Peninsula in the Indian Ocean. Unlike typical fishing villages, this one was not situated on shore, but floated in the sea. Its houses were built on rafts that were anchored side by side and connected with ropes and wooden walkways. The village rocked tranquilly upon the waves, up and down, creating a strange sensation. In general, when you go from a boat to a dock, you feel at once the reassuring solidity of...

Waltz with Bashir

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from “Laundry”

Laundry is a novel of psychological suspense that focuses on family relationships and the aftermath of childhood trauma. It is not a novel of the Holocaust, but like much Israeli literature, Laundry is driven by characters whose lives were shaped by the Holocaust—so much so that those events become a silent character in the novel. In 1960s Transylvania, where the novel begins, the main character, five-year-old Ildiko ("Kitschi"), experiences psychological abuse at the hands of an...

Dafna

So what is the moment? What does it look like? What shape does it take and when does it occur, that instant which is not a moment and yet is everything? And why does it slip away from her time after time after time? Because to talk about the moment of conception sounds trite, too small for the occasion, for the words attempting to describe it, and utterly imprecise. And to talk of the meeting between sperm and egg sounds silly, like PR-speak, like the press releases she formulates every...

The Soul Mate

My only son has a soul mate I'm not fond of. But what can I do? They bonded in the army, and although they've been out for a while now, the ties have only grown stronger. Is such a friendship like a camel in the desert, drawing nourishment from its own hump? Does it persist only by force of their shared army experience, or does it draw sustenance from any new sources? What is it about this friendship that threatens me? My son's soul mate is a civilized creature, gentle and...

Parting, a scene

"Parting," first published in Hebrew in 1914, revolves around the biblical injunction (and the Jewish custom) that a man must marry and support his brother's widow. However, in later times, as bigamy was outlawed, wives were made to divorce their dying husbands. . . . then the sun began to set. And it sent its last rays to the window of the terminally ill man. The rays shone through the latticed curtain, and flecks of light collected on the wall near the bed. . . . The room was...

Gulliver in Icelandic

On my first day, I was overcome with dread. It wasn't even four in the afternoon and the sun had set long ago. They turn on the streetlamps here by two, two-thirty, and in the brief spell of sunshine, the colors are as dim as in an old photo. For five months now I've been traveling on my own, just me and my knapsack, looking at snow and fjords and ice. The whole world is painted white, and at night—it's black. Sometimes I have to remind myself this is just a trek....

Ten Short Pieces

The Artist's Likeness Is Like an Artist This tale is rather old: Two painters wanted to see which of them could paint the painting that best imitated reality . . . One of the painters painted the front of a house, and the illusion was so perfect, so exact, that at first his competitor believed he had lost, but then understood that he simply had to enter the painted house and hang the painting that he had painted on a wall inside. The Angel Who Photographed God Who, these days,...

The Creature

Copyright 2006 by Guy Morad. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2006 by Riva Hocherman. All rights reserved.

Cinderella

Herzl Haliwa lets out a scream and jerks his head from the pillow in alarm. He comes to his senses very quickly—this had happened before—and lies still, gently inhaling and exhaling. Trying to quiet his thumping heart, he lets the body lying beside him twist a bit and return to the deep sleep of early morning. After making sure that the person—Anna von Something, he couldn't remember at the moment—has drifted back into slumber, he slowly rises from the bed. He...

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