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December 2006

Reading Right To Left: New Hebrew Writing From Israel

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.

Photo courtesy Yishay Garbasz. © 2006 by Yishay Garbasz. All rights reserved.

from The Assembly of Secrets
By Elias Khoury
This is how the story began.On that day, which was the sixth of January, 1976, Madame Sarah Nassar died, aged eighty-odd years. The death was expected. The only one to be taken by surprise was Ibrahim…
Translated from Arabic by Humphrey Davies
Who Is an Israeli Writer?
Who is an Israeli writer? Israel's dominant language is Hebrew. Its twentieth-century renovation was central to the Zionist project, it is the language of the common culture, and the equation of Israeli=Hebrew…
An Address
By Ida Fink
The telegram came at eight in the morning. He was still lying in bed; he didn’t really feel like getting up. He couldn’t stand Sundays anymore; they were empty days difficult to fill. So he…
Translated from Polish by Philip Boehm
A Christmas in 1945
By Mario Rigoni Stern
More than the snow he had to tramp through during the day, it was the cold of the night that made that time hard for him.He would leave when the glow of dawn shone on the rocky face of the mountain with…
Translated from Italian by Gregory Conti
from Botany of Chaos
By Ana María Shua
In this age of speed and technology, when people can barely keep up with email and appointments scheduled in palm pilots, the short short story has particular appeal for the reader with little time to…
Translated from Spanish by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan
The Creature
By Guy Morad
Copyright 2006 by Guy Morad. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2006 by Riva Hocherman. All rights reserved.
Translated from Hebrew by Riva Hocherman
Cinderella
By Sayed Kashua
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…
Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden
Multilingual
Elves
By Sara Shilo
Who would of thought that the Katyusha1 would catch me outside? Six years I don't go out. I walk without thinking, house-market-work-house-clinic-work-house-market-house-work. Comes the Katyusha and…
Translated from Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green
Multilingual
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. I'll always be on edge and I'll always be thinking that it's late,…
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger
Multilingual
The Ambush
By Yitzhak Laor
© 2006 by Yishay Garbasz. All rights reserved. When Dudu Rotem was still a corporal, the squad of five he commanded was assigned to set up an ambush south of the Dead Sea. This squad commander, then…
Translated from Hebrew by Gina Glasman
Multilingual
Words Without Borders Celebrates New Translations in 2006
As we approach the end of the year, the editors at Words Without Borders would like to celebrate the wealth and variety of literary translations published in English in 2006. To this end, we approached…
The Eternal Invalid and the Beloved
By Hanoch Levin
IA young man, an eternal invalid, loved a girl, but she was merely fond of him. They met for a while and even kissed. How did this come about? As far as the invalid was concerned, it was clear: he loved…
Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen