WHat constitutes the literature of Israel? Is it the sacred trilogy of Amos Oz, a. B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman? I really don’t think so. Is it Haim Nachman Bialik’s hair? Can. Or could it be the fringe pamphlets and pocket books of long-forgotten Zionist romance that have the core of the Hebrew inquisitors, with David Tidar—unrelated—as sovereign? Is it the Western novels, horror novels, and cute porn by authors like Mike Longshot and Kim Rockman, which one can still find on dusty shelves or at the Jaffa flea market from time to time?
Can. It seems to me that they are more honest, on their way.
James Joyce once said that he could write of Ireland only if he was far from it, and perhaps that is true of any man’s house–so that we may see it clearly, it should be seen from afar, with a love no longer blind to faults. And it’s strange to me, having spent a decade writing novels about the intersection between the political and the fiction, to be immersed in a grand historical epic instead. Under the guidance of a retired journalist, I delved into the archives of historical newspapers to explore the dark underbelly of an Israel I only thought I knew. The result was Maror, a novel that attempts to write an Israel that cannot be written from within.
How does one write about Israel? Each of these books answers the question differently.
1. A mile and two days before sunset – Shimon Adaf
Adaf’s first novel is just an opening shot in the recently translated Lost Detective trilogy, which treats the story of Israel as a fictional one that must be deciphered by the detective author lost in the futility of the attempt. A welcome English introduction to one of Israel’s most adventurous literary novelists.
2. Simulacra by Philip K. rooster
I grew up on a kibbutz, on a diet of subtitled American science fiction, and never saw myself thinking until I read Philip K Dick. My favorite novel remains The Simulacra, one of his more inventive mid-period mystery novels, with time-traveling Israelis and kibbutzim on Mars. Dick’s books gave me the confidence to finally write my own.
3. Batia Gur was killed in a kibbutz
Gore captured what it meant to grow up on a kibbutz in a way no one else had, and her detective, Michael O’Hayon, acted as a perfect intruder in that closed society, revealing simmering tensions beneath the sunny societal model I was. raised in.
4. All Backs Diverted by Marek Hasko
Polish “James Dean” was a hard-drinking exile from his native land, who most likely ended up at the end of the 1950s in Israel. He spent two unforgettable years in the place he once called “the Wild West of Holocaust survivors” in the company of prostitutes, drunks and petty criminals. The result is this black masterpiece, where two little hoodies, Dov and Israel, decide to seek new life in the southern city of Eilat. Tragedy inevitably follows. This Israel was not written by anyone, by an outsider who saw it as no one else did.
5. Unfortunately, Heaven Was: Selected Poems by Mahmoud Darwish
Darwish wrote: “You have your victories and we have our victories, we have a country in which we see only the invisible.” The Palestinian national poet writes about two lands with one geography, and the attempt to include his poetry in Israeli school curricula has caused political outrage in particular. But no one captures the meaning of a single land divided by competing histories better than Darwish, who knew it took a land name to own it.
6. Palestine +100: Stories from a Century after the Nakba, by Basma Ghalayini
This groundbreaking Palestinian science fiction anthology doesn’t always make it easy to read, though there is a sense of humor woven through despair in some of the stories, as in Ahmed Masoud’s App 39, which imagines a Palestinian presentation of the Olympics as an escalation of crises. . The collective forgetfulness in The Association by Samir El-Youssef reminds us of Howard Jacobson’s J, while Dr. Schott builds an entire futuristic world in a few pages. Makes it essential reading.
7. Invigorating Priest of Nicholas Blenchoy
I’m out of print for this thriller, but Blincoe addresses the secret world of land deals in the Occupied Territories with vigor, and this was my first introduction to the subject matter. Blincoe captures the ambiguous atmosphere well: a climate that includes, then and now, spy-like operations and a death threat hanging over anyone willing to sell.
8. With Tonight by Leah Goldberg
Hebrew was not Goldberg’s first or second language. Having learned it, I helped shape it, and her poems carry a vibrant sense of place and individuality. This last collection sparkles, and poems like Tel Aviv, 1935 simply capture the sense of a now-vanishing world. One of my favorite collections of Hebrew poetry, written by one of my favorite poets.
9. The Eagles / Scumbags by Yoram Kaniuk
Denounced for most of his life by the Israeli literary establishment, Kaniuk depicts the horror of the 1948 war of a soldier abandoned by his commander, forced to hide among corpses while vultures hover above their heads, in the first of these two classic novels. In the second, two elderly fighters, disgusted with the modern state, set off on a murderous spree against the “scoundrels,” the sons of their aging generation (Hebrew, nephilut, also meaning “corpses”) who were brought up to hate them. Brutal and beautiful in turns.
10. Just the Job: Some Experiences for a Colonial Policeman by Jeffrey Morton
You might have to look it up in the British Library, but that’s cool. Morton served in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s, until he shot and killed Abraham “Yair” Stern, the leader of the so-called Stern Gang. Morton subsequently survived several attempts on his life before being transported to the other side of the world. He details the bloody conflict between Arab and Jewish resistance groups as well as the more mundane kind of crime, but it is the British sense of frustration with the natives that really captivates them. An early class was devoted to the cruel treatment of donkeys. One of Morton’s first jobs as a policeman was to ensure that taxi drivers did not sound their horns – the noise much to the dismay of the British commissioner. It’s a sharp reminder at times that it was the British Empire that shaped the modern map of the Middle East – and many of its current conflicts.