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Reading Right To Left: New Hebrew Writing From Israel

December 2006

In a land where borders are provisional, contested, and fiercely policed, language to some exent flows around the barriers. Thus is Hebrew used by writers both Jewish and Arab, Sephardic and Ashkenazi, hawk and dove. A diverse group of writers here put their common language of Hebrew to individual use, in iconoclastic stories replete with ironic reversals. In portraits of contemporary life during wartime, Yitzhak Laor reports an idiot’s accidental heroism; Sara Shilo’s exhausted widowed mother prays for the blessed relief of a rocket; and Guy Morad’s graphic tale reveals the vulnerability of a lethal infiltrator. On the domestic front, Hanoch Levin charts a romance that is both everything and nothing, and Orly Castel-Bloom’s sly narrator embraces senility as an excuse for bad behavior. Ida Fink maps a Holocaust survivor’s journey of mistaken identity. And Sayed Kashua updates “Cinderella” to suggest one way of surviving a schizophrenic culture. We thank our guest editor, Riva Hocherman, for her heroic efforts in compiling this singular collection, and for her illuminating introduction to this complex literary culture.

Who Is an Israeli Writer?
By Riva Hocherman
Who is an Israeli writer? Israel’s dominant language is Hebrew.
The Ambush
By Yitzhak Laor
Naturally, he didn’t say a word to his troops about the stupidity of their superior officers.
Translated from Hebrew by Gina Glasman
By Sara Shilo
Where does Mrs. Simona go at night? Where are her feet taking her?
Translated from Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green
The Creature
By Guy Morad
Translated from Hebrew by Riva Hocherman
The Eternal Invalid and the Beloved
By Hanoch Levin
A young man, an eternal invalid, loved a girl, but she was merely fond of him.
Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
My Fallow Years
By Orly Castel-Bloom
When I grow old, in however many three-month intervals, I’ll gain more and more disabilities, cognitive and otherwise.
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger
An Address
By Ida Fink
It would be madness to delude himself into believing that Maria and the boy were still alive.
Translated from Polish by Philip Boehm
By Sayed Kashua
Herzl Haliwa lets out a scream and jerks his head from the pillow in alarm.
Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden