The Arty Semite

A Graphic Account of the Israeli Countryside

By Ezra Glinter

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The past year has seen a bumper crop of Jewish-themed graphic novels, with subjects ranging from the recent history of the Middle East (Joe Sacco’s “Footnotes in Gaza”) to the ancient mythology of the Middle East (R. Crumb’s “Genesis”) to the poets of the Beat Generation (Harvey Pekar and Ed Piskor’s “The Beats”).

Still, the torrent of graphic productions continues. Most recently, a portion of “Farm 54,” an Israeli book by siblings Gilad and Galit Seliktar, has been published by Words Without Borders, an online magazine that regularly provides translations of works by international authors. As the pre-amble to the excerpt describes it, “Farm 54”

brings together three semi-autobiographical stories from the childhood, puberty, and early adulthood (military service years) of its female protagonist, growing up in Israel’s rural periphery in the 1970s and 1980s. The stories present the disturbing underground dimensions of adolescence, and the dangers and traumas that subvert the superficial tranquility of youth in the countryside.

Of course, Israeli graphic novels are nothing new. As Forward columnist Jay Michaelson noted in his 2007 review of two such works, “Pizzeria Kamikaze” by Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka, and “Exit Wounds” By Rutu Modan,

For a country with the same population as Philadelphia, there was an astounding array of underground comics, ’zines and other independent cultural production, and the quality was on a par with what one would find in New York.

As farm “Farm 54” shows, the trend is in no danger of abating.

Read an excerpt from “Farm 54” here.

h/t NY Times Arts Beat


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