Bulletin: Israeli literature and Israel in Literature

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Bulletin: Israeli literature

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New Book: Levine, Center and Periphery in Israeli Literature (in Hebrew)

Levine, Daphna. The Third Space. Center and Periphery in Israeli Literature. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2016 (in Hebrew).

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ניתוח ספרות בכלים מרחביים הוא אתר בלתי נדלה להבנת המורכבות החברתית העומדת בבסיס הייצוגים התרבותיים. מטרתו של ספר זה לשרטט את המרחב המופיע כרקע, להפוך אותו לרטורי ולחשוף באמצעותו רכיבים שהטקסטים הספרותיים מבקשים להדחיק. הדיון בכלים מתחום חקר המרחב הנו פורה במיוחד בהקשר של הספרות הישראלית, שכן ספרות זו נכתבת במסגרת השיח הציוני שמאבק מרחבי מתמיד מתחולל בו. אולם הדיון פורה לא רק כשהספרות שותפה לפרויקט של רכישת הבעלות על הטריטוריה, אלא גם כשהיא מתנערת כביכול מהטריטוריה ומתרכזת באינדיבידואל, במרכז או במערב, תוך כדי הדחקה והשתקה של המרחב ה”אחר”, או תוך כדי יצירת רב-תרבותיות ופוליפוניה אתנית מדומה. או-אז מתגלה המרחב המדומיין כתמונת ראי ליחסי כוח בין מרכז לפריפריה.

הייצוגים המרחביים הספרותיים מאפשרים לבחון כיצד מתעצבות תרבויות מוכפפות תוך כדי הפנמה של ערכי התרבות ההגמונית, תהליך המלווה ביצירת מרחב (פיזי ולשוני) היברידי שלישי שבו מובנת זהותם תוך כדי “זיהום הדדי”, על פי מונחיו של הומי באבא. יחסי הגומלין בין המרכז והפריפריה יופיעו בספר זה כאתר דינמי הנמתח מעבר לדיכוטומיות הבינאריות, תוך כדי ניתוח לא צפוי של שלוש יצירות ישראליות: “חמסין וציפורים משוגעות” מאת גבריאלה אביגור-רותם, “שום גמדים לא יבואו” מאת שרה שילה, ו”ככה אני מדברת עם הרוח” מאת סמי ברדוגו.

דפנה לוין היא אדריכלית; בוגרת המחלקה לארכיטקטורה באקדמיה “בצלאל” ומלמדת בה; בעלת תואר ראשון ושני בספרות כללית והשוואתית באוניברסיטה העברית.

 

 

 

New Article: Shikhmanter, Contemporary Israeli Children’s and Young Adults’ Historical Fiction

Shikhmanter, Rima. “History as Politics: Contemporary Israeli Children’s and Young Adults’ Historical Fiction and the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict.” nternational Research in Children’s Literature 9.1 (2016): 83-97.

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/ircl.2016.0184

 

Abstract

Historical fiction serves as a powerful source for the dissemination of historical images and the determination of collective memory. These roles are of particular significance in the context of severe political conflicts. In these cases historical fiction shapes the narrative of the conflict, explains its source and central events, and therefore forms the readers’ political stances towards the conflict and its consequences.

This article examines the role contemporary Jewish Israeli historical fiction for young adults plays in presenting the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to young readers. It discusses two of the political perspectives this fiction addresses: the traditional hegemonic narrative and the left-wing narrative. Associated with the right-wing sector of Israeli politics, the former promotes the Zionist myth and seeks to justify the necessity and morality of its premises while ignoring and/or dismissing the legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative. The lack of a consensual Jewish historical narrative that does not negate the Palestinian narrative on the one hand, and the ongoing public delegitimisation of the left-wing on the other, forces historical-fiction authors to place their plots at a historical remove, locating them in other places and times.

Thesis: Ichikawa, Minorities in Contemporary Hebrew and Japanese Literature

Ichikawa, Kimiko. Minorities, Minority Identity and Violence: The Comparison in Contemporary Hebrew and Japanese Minor Literature, Masters Thesis. Brandeis University, 2016.

 

URL: http://bir.brandeis.edu/handle/10192/32275

 

Abstract

This thesis examines how minority identities are depicted in contemporary autobiographical literature from the 1990’s to present. In this thesis, I focus my analysis on minority literatures from Israel and Japan. In spite of the extreme rarity of the literary comparison, I examine minorities of Israeli Arab and the second generation Japanese Koreans. I explore how these minorities with different histories are represented, with shared experience of oppression and violence, and analyze the phenomena or ramifications in minority identity. By analyzing famous novelists of minority literature— Israeli Arab author, Sayed Kashua and two Japanese Korean authors, Yi Yang-ji and Kazuki Kaneshiro—I concentrate on pointing out the influences and outcomes of psychological and political violence (Chapter I and II) to their minority identities. This comparison will enable a wider perspectives regarding minorities in various societies, and an analysis of issues of relating to minority as well as race identity in modern life. This unique literary comparison attempts to examine cultural and political similarities as well as differences in order to explore the phenomena of two countries with different cultures but that share certain similarities, particularly in the articulation of their minority literature. Although Israel and Japan differ very much in term of culture and history, I still find significant similarities in the minority literature. The minorities I examined in Hebrew and Japanese minor literature interact with violence in various ways each society. I focused my examination especially on psychological and political violence in addition to physical violence. My questions in researching this minority literature revolve around how these minorities relate to these kinds of violence. This thesis concentrates on presenting the ways that these the minority authors address their own political identities, and the ways that social violence and oppression influence their minority identities.

 

 

 

New Article: Bar-Itzhak, Literary Representations of Haifa

Bar-Itzhak, Chen. “The Dissolution of Utopia: Literary Representations of the City of Haifa, between Herzl’s Altneuland and Later Israeli Works.” Partial Answers 14.2 (2016): 323-41.

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URL: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/621157

 

Abstract

This article traces literary depictions of the city of Haifa, starting from its utopian literary prototype in Theodor Herzl’s influential Altneuland (1902), and continuing with later Israeli writing, by Yehudit Hendel, Sami Michael, and Hillel Mittelpunkt. The article shows how the Israeli works discussed set literary Haifa as a stage for examining questions of identity, belonging, and the relations between individual and society, through an emphasis on the complex ties between language, ethnicity, and space. The literary city of these works is compared to the city of Herzl’s utopian vision. I argue that the evolution of literary Haifa is associated with shifts in Israeli collective self-perception: from the utopian mode of thought, in which difficulties and complexities remain invisible, through the gradual turning of the gaze towards the difficulties and fractures in the emergent new society (first within the Jewish society, but then also outside it — among the Arab minority); and finally, to an inability to accept the absence of utopia from the present, leading to escapism and a quest for the longed-for ideal in the pre-national past.

 

 

 

New Article: Marienberg-Milikowsky, Transmitting Tradition in the Work of Haim Be’er

Marienberg-Milikowsky, Itay. “Upon a Certain Place: On the Dialectics of Transmitting Tradition in the Work of Haim Be’er.” Zutot (early view; online first).
 
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/18750214-12341276
 
Abstract

Haim Beʾer is recognized by Hebrew literary criticism as a writer who conducts a profound dialogue between ancient Jewish texts and modern Jewish-Israeli culture. This article offers a critical appraisal of this view. Through a reading of Beʾer’s novel Lifnei ha-makom (Upon a Certain Place, 2007), the article offers a new way of looking at how Beʾer sees the relation between old and new. Instead of mediating between tradition and modernity and translating the old for a generation that has partly severed ties with it, Lifnei ha-makom undermines the very mediation that is so much identified with Beʾer’s work. Beʾer’s novel boldly examines what it means to live a Jewish life almost devoid of books. The role of tradition, in this scheme, is to be present in the world of the new generation without undergoing interpretation. The article links between this attitude and deep processes in contemporary Israeli culture.

 

 

 

New Book: Shamir, The Native Foreigner; Representations of Hybridity in Modern Israeli Fiction

Shamir, Ayelet. The Native Foreigner. Representations of Hybridity in Modern Israeli Fiction. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2016 (in Hebrew).

 
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The notion of hybridity is suppressed in the discussion over Israeli society, culture, and literature. This book deals with the concept of hybridity, its cultural genealogy, its essence and characteristics. It offers to use it as a prism for reading three works of modern Israeli prose, “Refuge” (1977) by Sami Michael; “Arabesques” (1986) by Anton Shammas and “The Liberated Bride “(2001) by A.B. Yehoshua.

These works represent the very essence of the cultural hybrid experience that exist between Jewish and Arabic, and express the social and linguistic dualism characteristic of this experience. Forces of attraction and repulsion interact between these two societies, and this dualism causes internal conflicts while allowing for mutual input. Alongside manifestations of anxiety, separatism, and rejection by the other minority, which is often perceived as a “native foreigner” within us, there is also an equally strong presence of wishes of mixture, attraction, and erotic intimacy, disruptive wishes which signify blurring and crossing of boundaries.

This book deals with various questions: who is the native foreigner? What is its voice? What is actually the hybrid “Third Israeli”? What might be the best literary expression of it?

 

AYELET SHAMIR is an author, and the chair of the Department of drama literature creative-expressive arts, at the Oranim Academic College.

 

 

 

New Book: Cohen, Literary Imagination in Israel-Palestine

Cohen, Hella Bloom. The Literary Imagination in Israel-Palestine. Orientalism, Poetry, and Biopolitics, Postcolonialism and Religions. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

literary imagination

This book presents a cutting-edge critical analysis of the trope of miscegenation and its biopolitical implications in contemporary Palestinian and Israeli literature, poetry, and discourse. The relationship between nationalism and demographics are examined through the narrative and poetic intrigue of intimacy between Arabs and Jews, drawing from a range of theoretical perspectives, including public sphere theory, orientalism, and critical race studies. Revisiting the controversial Brazilian writer Gilberto Freyre, who championed miscegenation in his revisionary history of Brazil, the book deploys a comparative investigation of Palestinian and Israeli writers’ preoccupation with the mixed romance. Author Hella Bloom Cohen offers new interpretations of works by Mahmoud Darwish, A.B. Yehoshua, Orly Castel-Bloom, Nathalie Handal, and Rula Jebreal, among others.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction to Israeli-Palestinian Literature and Postcolonial Studies: An Uneasy Relationship
  • 2. Reading Freyre in the Holy Land
  • 3. “The Synthetic Principle”: Darwish’s “Rita”
  • 4. “Intimate Histories”: Internal Miscegenation in A. B. Yehoshua’s A Late Divorce
  • 5. “Mixed Syndicate”: Poetics of Fabric under Occupation
  • 6. Reading past Freyre: Disembodied Miscegenation
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

 

HELLA BLOOM COHEN is an assistant professor of English at St. Catherine University, USA. She previously held a visiting assistant professorship at Elon University, and has published on material culture and global literature.

 

 

 

ToC: Hebrew Studies 56 (2015)

Below are the relevant articles for Israel Studies from the latest issue of Hebrew Studies. For a full Table of Contents,click here.

 

Innovative Designation of Diminution in the Writings of Abraham Shlonsky

pp. 231-243

Bat-Zion Yemini

Memory and History in Israeli Post-Apocalyptic Theater

pp. 245-263

Zahava Caspi

Questioning Boundaries of Language and the World: Ambivalence and Disillusionment in the Writings of Shimon Adaf

pp. 265-294

Dorit Lemberger

Hebrew Neologisms in the Writings of Anton Shammas

pp. 295-314

Adel Shakour, Abdallah Tarabeih

The Pain of Two Homelands: Immigration to Israel in Twenty-First Century Hebrew Prose Fiction

pp. 315-331

Smadar Shiffman

“Our Virgin Friends and Wives”?: Female Sexual Subjectivity in Yona Wallach’s Poetry

pp. 333-356

Amalia Ziv

New Testament Jesus in Modern Jewish Literature: A Symposium

pp. 357-358

Zev Garber

Jesus and the Pharisees through the Eyes of Two Modern Hebrew Writers: A Contrarian Perspective

pp. 359-365

Neta Stahl

A Question of Truth: Form, Structure, and Character in Der man fun Natseres

pp. 367-376

Melissa Weininger

Overtones of Isaac and Jesus in Modern Hebrew Narrative

pp. 377-384

Aryeh Wineman

The Jewish Jesus: Conversation, Not Conversion

pp. 385-392

Zev Garber

Reviews

 

Compassion and Fury: On The Fiction of A. B. Yehoshua by Gilead Morahg (review)

pp. 433-436

Yael Halevi-Wise

Periodicals

pp. 437-456

Books Received — 2015

pp. 457-460

New Article: Ofengenden, Therapy and Satire in Contemporary Israeli Film and Literature

Ofengenden, Ari. “National Identity in Global Times: Therapy and Satire in Contemporary Israeli Film and Literature.” The Comparatist 39 (2015): 294-312.

 

URL: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2015.1103877

 

Extract

To conclude let us step back and look at the effects of all of these transformation narratives together. These and other novels and films engage in a sustained reusing of the past and successfully transform the way people articulate their identity. They do this with an empathic retelling of the national story like Oz, with the German or Arab Israeli other as in the film Walk on Water and Arab Labor, or with a crazed narrator like Kaniuk’s and Castel-Bloom’s. Therapeutic interventions end with a working through of displacement and immigration, a heightened awareness of the effects of the Holocaust, and a new appreciation of the creative potential of Jewish identity and culture. Self-critical satire breaks open a monolithic national identity, exposing its constructed nature and calls for creative transformations. We can now ask why these two narratives are so central to the way literature and film re-imagine national identity in contemporary times. I think that the answer lies most prominently in globalization. International flows of culture, goods, and people help strengthen civil society in its critique and parody of state violence and state agents. Somewhat paradoxically, globalization also leads to a demand for specifically national narratives in the international market. In a recent talk, Salman Rushdie pointed out that contemporary writers are increasingly asked to mediate the story of a nation for an international audience. Indeed that is what his own Midnight’s Children did for India, what J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace did for South Africa, Toni Morrison’s novels for the U.S., and Oz and Grossman for Israel. Thus we get narratives that are called to represent the nation on an international market but heal, critique, or poke fun at it at the same time. The system in which Hebrew literature finds itself has radically changed. Previously this system or field was constructed as a national field; now the field is constituted as semi-global. Some actors achieve international success while others remain domestic. Some mediate and explain the national story on the global stage while others parody the nation in order to change it.

Israeli national-cultural discourse is not a sole expression of some underlying economic forces that determine its content. However, its expression is a result of creative adaptation to economical and political pressures and opportunities that have become more and more global. Mainstream literature and culture has responded by articulating narratives that simultaneously reflect feelings of lack of political agency and an empathic apologetic self-representation for the global other. Minor literature in Israel saw an opportunity in the weakening of the state to articulate a critique in the form of parody that attempts to reconfigure national identity.

 

 

 

ToC: Israel Studies Review 30.2 (2015)

Israel Studies Review 30.2 (2015)

Editors’ Note

Editors’ Note
pp. v-vi(2)

 

Articles

Does Israel Have a Navel? Anthony Smith and Zionism
pp. 28-49(22)
Author: Berent, Moshe

 

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
pp. 130-155(26)

New Article: Schirrmeister, A Contiguous Reading of Two Anti-War Novels by Avigdor Hameiri and M. Y. Ben-Gavriêl

Schirrmeister, Sebastian. “Two Roads to the Land: A Contiguous Reading of Two Anti-War Novels by Avigdor Hameiri and M. Y. Ben-Gavriêl”. Naharaim 9.1-2 (2015): 108-27.

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/naha-2015-0004

Abstract

Drawing on Dan Miron’s concept of “literary contiguity,” this article arranges an encounter between two documentary novels about the experience of the First World War, both told from the perspective of a Jewish officer. Although rather different with regard to their place in the Modern Hebrew canon, the well-known novel The Great Madness (1929) by Avigdor Hameiri and the unknown novel Gold in the Streets (1946) by M. Y. Ben-Gavriêl reveal numerous topical and aesthetic intersections when read alongside each other. The joint analysis shows that besides their pacifism and general criticism of the logic of the nation-state, both novels share a common geographical and ideological trajectory. Their interpretation of the events depicted during the “Great War” envisages the Land of Israel as the ultimate destination of their protagonists.

 

 

 

New Article: Zakai, Literature, Ideology and Sexual Violence in the Writing of Rivka Alper

Zakai, Orian. “A Uniform of a Writer: Literature, Ideology and Sexual Violence in the Writing of Rivka Alper.” Prooftexts 34.2 (2015): 232-70.

 

URL: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/prooftexts/v034/34.2.zakai.html

 

Abstract

This essay explores the politics of women’s writing in the Zionist yishuv by examining the literary career of Rivka Alper, whose work features a difficult clash between a “feminine” narrative of sexual trauma and Zionist ideology. I discuss Alper’s literary trajectory from her first novel, Pirpurey mahapekha, a coming-of-age story of a young woman, which foregrounds themes of sexual trauma and gendered violence, to her second project, Ha-mitnaḥalim ba-har, a biography of a Zionist role model, one of the women founders of the colony of Motza. Alper’s transition from “personal” fiction to ideological literature is part of a process of an arduous self-fashioning toward carving a place for herself, albeit marginal, in the Zionist republic of letters. Her process demonstrates the predicament of writing as a woman in a Zionist cultural space that marks writing as an emasculating practice, but exclusively assigns male writers the role of national subjects. In such a space, I argue, transitioning to marginal genres in order to write for the collective emerges as a privileged alternative for an aspiring woman writer. And yet, as contents from Alper’s fictional writing infiltrate her biographic writing, the literariness of her “less literary” text exposes the exclusions that lie at the heart of the Zionist ideological project, and, in turn, reinscribes “the feminine” as a composite marker of these exclusions back into the Zionist text.

 

 

New Article: Szobel, Prostitution, Power and Vulnerability in Early Twentieth-Century Hebrew Literature

Szobel, Ilana. “‘Lights in the Darkness’: Prostitution, Power and Vulnerability in Early Twentieth-Century Hebrew Literature.” Prooftexts 34.2 (2015): 170-206.

 

URL: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/prooftexts/v034/34.2.szobel.html

 

Abstract

This article explores the juxtaposition of prostitution, masculinity, and nationalism in the works of Hebrew writers at the beginning of the twentieth century. By discussing the psycho-poetical elements that underlie David Vogel’s depiction of prostitution and the ideological elements in Gershon Shofman’s work, and by exposing their dialogue with Hayim Nahman Bialik, this project explores power, vulnerability, gender, sexuality, and nationalism in Hebrew literature of the first half of the twentieth century.

My study argues that the trope of the prostitute enables writers of early Hebrew literature to negotiate questions of strength and weakness in the Jewish world. Although Bialik’s option of sovereign masculinity became the norm for the Zionist discourse, Shofman, Vogel, Brenner, Reuveni and others expressed different perceptions of gender and power. Hence, in order to understand the intensity of the poetic, national, and gendered dilemmas and struggles of this generation, this study offers to listen not only to their concepts of revival, renewal and empowerment, but also to their expressions of weakness, frustration, loss, anger and aggression.

 

 

New Article: Ahmed & Elsharkawy, The Potential of Iraqi Cultural Identity within Two Generations

Ahmed, Mohamed A. H., and Ashraf Elsharkawy. “Tel Aviv Mizrah. The Potential of Iraqi Cultural Identity within Two Generations.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 14.3 (2015): 430-45.

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14725886.2015.1032024

 

Abstract

Before immigrating to Israel, first-generation Iraqi Jews were deeply attached to their identity as Mizrahi Jews. Their mother tongue was Arabic and they had grown up in an oriental environment. Therefore, it was not easy for them to adopt the Euro-Israeli identity that the dominant Ashkenazi-European stratum in Israel compelled them to accept. Despite strong Westernizing tendencies in Israeli society, the first generation of Iraqi Jewish immigrants maintained strong links to the Iraqi customs and traditions they had acquired in Iraq, particularly with regard to the musical folklore and oriental cuisine. On the other hand, second-generation Iraqi Jews were more familiar with Israeli society than their parents; they grew up in Israel and learned Hebrew in Israeli schools along with Ashkenazi Jews and other ethnic groups. This paper establishes connections between the historical realities of Iraqi Jewish immigrants and the literary representation of their world in the trilogy Tel-Aviv Mizrah (Tel Aviv East) written in 2003 by the Iraqi Jewish author Shimon Ballas, through a comparison of Ballas’s literary vision with the historical realities of Iraqi Jewish identity in Israel over the course of two generations.

 

 

New Articles: Stähler, Israel in British Jewish Fiction

Stähler, Axel. “‘Almost too good to be true’: Israel in British Jewish Fiction, Pre-Lebanon.” In The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Jewish Fiction (ed. David Brauner and Axel Stähler; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015): 237-52.

 

Stähler, Axel. “The Writing on the Wall: Israel in British Jewish Fiction, Post-Lebanon.” In The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Jewish Fiction (ed. David Brauner and Axel Stähler; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015): 253-66.

Edinburgh companion

 

New Article: Katz, On Yoram Kaniuk’s Peripatetic Palmaḥnik

Katz, Stephen. “After the Shooting: On Yoram Kaniuk’s Peripatetic Palmaḥnik.” Shofar 34.1 (2015): 27-56.

 

URL: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/shofar/v034/34.1.katz.html

 

Abstract

Wounded in body and spirit following his participation in Israel’s War of Independence, Yoram Kaniuk’s (1930–2013) protagonist of several key and stylistically sophisticated America-centered novels escapes to the New World. There, seeking a haven for recuperation and finding his identity, he exhibits some of the unheroic qualities that are a manifestation of his upbringing, of the mythological and unsavory sabra, or are the mirror of the fragmented social circle of acquaintances he makes in New York. Seeking an identity, he attempts to own the New World, doing so by attempts at conquest—of women, financial stability, or climbing the ladder of social hierarchy. In terms of women, he fails at exhibiting a lasting commitment with any. He fails at maintaining a successful career, while the “aristocracy” with which he affiliates turns out to be flawed and decaying. So while he meets some of New York’s rich and famous, he finds no model whom to emulate among them. None of these avenues bring any succor to him emotionally, spiritually, or physically from the trauma of the war memories that continue to haunt him and as he continues to search for a place to call home. Realizing the futility of it all, the protagonist escapes to other realms, mostly by returning to Israel in the expectation of finding a modus vivendi there with his memories and the reality of the new society.

 

 

ToC: Shofar 33.4 (2015); special issue: Contemporary Israeli Literature

Coming soon (by July 1) in Shofar, a special issue on contemporary Israeli literature, edited by Rachel S. Harris.

Shofar is available on JSTOR and Project Muse.

Hebrew in English: The New Transnational Hebrew Literature

by Melissa Weininger

Although the historiography of Hebrew literature has often retrospectively portrayed its development as an Israeli phenomenon, recent scholarship has shown the ways in which Hebrew literature’s origins lie largely in the Diaspora. Two new books by Israeli writers written in English, Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and Ayelet Tsabari’s The Best Place on Earth, return to the diasporic roots of Hebrew literature by deliberately placing themselves as a challenge to the Zionist narrative of literary historiography. This article elaborates the ways that these books use English to explore the transnational nature of Hebrew literature and participate in a larger literary conversation about globalization. Their linguistic experimentation is also tied to the thematic challenges they pose to foundational Israeli mythologies, like that of the New Hebrew Man, through an emphasis on marginal characters and themes. This literature, which I call “Hebrew in English,” stands as a critique of hegemonic constructions of Israeli identity, nationalism, and culture.

Between the Backpack and the Tent: Home, Zionism, and a New Generation in Eshkol Nevo’s Novels Homesick and Neuland

by Rachel S. Harris

The relationship between travel and home are given new life in the novels of Eshkol Nevo. Framing the contemporary reality in narratives that explore Zionism, travel, and social activism, Nevo offers a conception of the new generation of Israeli writers torn between an Israeli identity, with its increasingly inclusive and polyethnic state, and a Jewish identity with its diasporic roots.

A Spatial Identity Crisis: Space and Identities in Nir Baram’s Novels

by Vered Weiss

The following article focuses on the use of spatial metaphors, and the presence (or absence) of Jewish-Israeli identities in Nir Baram’s novels, offering an overview of his work and locating it within a Hebrew literary tradition. In order to explore individual and collective identities in a (post)modern world, Baram makes extensive and elaborate use of spatial metaphors, blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, tampering with the stable organization of the world, and presenting homes that offer neither shelter nor warmth. The various characters in Baram’s texts—Israeli or not—are either homeless or otherwise displaced, yearning for a home they cannot fully comprehend or construct. The defamiliarization of space in Baram’s work creates the sense that Jewish-Israeli identities are implicitly present even when they are explicitly absent, and detached when they are, indeed, overtly present. This elusiveness seems to be the core of Jewish-Israeli identities as they manifest, or are alluded to, in Baram’s work.

Where You Are From: The Poetry of Vaan Nguyen

by Adriana X. Jacobs

In her debut collection The Truffle Eye (2014), the Vietnamese-Israeli poet Vaan Nguyen brings a mix of cultural and linguistic affiliations to her Hebrew writing that is arguably standard in today’s multilingual and multicultural Israeli society, particularly in the cosmopolitan milieu of Tel Aviv, where she locates much of her work. But as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who have settled in Israel, Vaan also engages and challenges—through the double position of the insider/outsider—the discourse of exile and return and the politics of memory in Israeli culture. In the 2005 film The Journey of Vaan Nguyen, the Israeli filmmaker Duki Dror offered a nuanced portrait of the friction between Nguyen’s Israeli and Vietnamese identities and her family’s Israeli present and Vietnamese past. In this article, I address how Vaan negotiates and articulates her double position through a close examination of scenes from the film and selections from The Truffle Eye. Against the problematic reception and reading of her poetry as exotic, I argue that the cosmopolitan and transnational movements that shape her work evince a characteristically twenty-first century Israeli mode of travel and translation.

The Shape of Time in Microfiction: Alex Epstein and the Search for Lost Time

by Adam Rovner

This article presents a general theory of microfiction that focuses on the formal elements of the genre’s poetics. My analysis argues that a symmetry exists between microfiction’s contracted spatialization, and the compression—and hence violation—of temporal norms of the reader’s anticipation. The violation of conventional reading anticipation makes microfiction seem not only to be new but also transgressive. Indeed, much microfiction is transgressive of prevailing ideologies of time that are premised on the existence of contingency and the efficacy of human agency. This article takes the work of Israeli microfiction author Alex Epstein as its touchstone while advancing a framework for a theory of the genre.

Alon Hilu and the Hebrew Historical Novel

by Shai P. Ginsburg

In this paper, I discuss Alon Hilu’s two historical novels, Death of a Monk (2004) and The Dejani Estate (2008), as symptomatic of Israeli culture of the twenty-first century. I argue that the question of genre—historical fiction—is as central to the construction of the novels as it is to their reception. As the latter evinces, historical fiction is perceived as blurring the proper boundaries between the “objective” and the imaginary and thus feeds anxieties about the relationship of Jews to history, anxieties that have been haunting Zionist discourses from their inception. Hilu’s novels trace these anxieties to concerns about sexuality and desire and employ them to explore the relationship between two central foci of the Hebrew historical novel, namely, historical agency and historical writing. The novels construct numerous “scenes of writing,” in which writing seeks to retrieve historical agency, embodied in the two novels by desire and sexual potency. Simultaneously, writing is revealed as a mere substitute for desire and sex. Both novels consequently suggest that writing attests to the failure to produce historical agency.

Femininity and Authenticity in Ethiopia and Israel: Asfu Beru’s A Different Moon

by Adia Mendelson-Maoz

This article discusses the work of the female Ethiopian-Israeli author Asfu Beru, whose collection of stories, Yare’ah Aher (A Different Moon) was published in 2002. The small corpus of contemporary Hebrew literature by Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants in Israel usually focuses on the narrative of homecoming and the journey to “Yerussalem,” while often viewing the African space retrospectively in utopian terms. By contrast, the stories in Beru’s collection are set in Ethiopia and do not deal with the journey or immigration to Israel. They depict a rigid traditional society that the protagonist, an adolescent female in many of the stories, has to confront. This article analyzes the convoluted relationship between multiculturalism and feminism through Beru’s hyphenated identity as a member of a traditional society, a woman, a Jew, and a Black, but who identifies at times with the hegemonic Israeli-Western perspective and takes a critical stance toward traditional Ethiopian society.

Settlers versus Pioneers: The Deconstruction of the Settler in Assaf Gavron’s The Hilltop

by Yaakov Herskovitz

This paper engages in a close reading of settlers, settlements, and the portrayal of settler ideology in the novel The Hilltop. This trailblazing novel from 2013, written by Assaf Gavron, foregrounds the image of the settlers in the West Bank and their relationship to the State of Israel. The paper explores this relationship through a discussion of settler ideology and how this set of beliefs comperes to Zionist ideology at large. Thus, the images of the settler and of Zionist pioneers are coupled and reexamined.