Israeli Literature: A Reader's Guide

Hebrew literature in translation.

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Many of Amos Oz's (1939-) novels reveal the dark underside of life and the psyche. In The Hill of Evil Counsel and My Michael, for example, passion and family dysfunction are narrated from very different perspectives, one of an adolescent boy during the British Mandate, the other of a women in 1950s Jerusalem.

A.B. Yehoshua, (1936-) another  prominent contemporary Israeli novelist, has written a wide range of books, from A Journey to the End of the Millennium, which chronicles a family's voyage through medieval Ashkenaz, to A Woman in Jerusalem, which focuses on the circumstances surrounding a woman's violent death.

The majority of Aharon Appelfeld's (1932-) novels and novellas focus on the Holocaust, both the events leading up to the genocide and its lasting legacy. In clean, calm prose, he sketches a vibrant Jewish community that ignores the looming signs of disaster in Badenheim 1939. Other works, such as The Iron Tracks and The Immortal Bartfuss, feature characters who wrestle with the physical and psychological scars of the Holocaust.

Surprisingly, Yoram Kaniuk's (1930-) work is available in English, even though he has long been on the margins of Hebrew literature. Kaniuk writes innovative fiction that mixes the fantastic and the grotesque, including the exploits of Holocaust survivors in Adam Resurrected and Jewish identity and collective memory in The Last Jew.

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Naomi Brenner is completing a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on the many connections and interactions between modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature.