The Arty Semite

For Israeli Literature, Why Not Head to Illinois?

By Dan Friedman

  • Print
  • Share Share

On Thursday Dalkey Archive, the university press of the University of Illinois, disembargoed their long-touted release about their contemporary Hebrew literature series. Having already announced this year the imminent or forthcoming publication of three notable Israeli books in English — including Eshkol Nevo’s “Homesickness” (see video below) — Dalkey confirms that this will be an ongoing series.

Generally the province of niche publishers like Toby Press, marquee names (David Grossman, Meir Shalev, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua) or, seemingly random enthusiasms (Eli Amir’s patchy publication history for one) Israeli fiction, as with most foreign literatures, feels marginalized in English-speaking countries. Now, especially with Toby Press making cutbacks, the need for a consistent and committed publisher for contemporary Hebrew literature will be found in at least one small part of Illinois.

Although joining with some large Israeli institutions (the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and the Office of Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York as well as their own local Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois) their choices haven’t been conservative.

Yoram Kaniuk is an Israeli Beat writer who, until rediscovered at Zeek was largely lost to English. Eshkol’s books have both excited controversy for their ability to speak for a new generation and, perhaps for the same reason, been accepted to the national curriculum in Israel. Orly Castel-Bloom, a writer who grew up in Israel speaking mostly French to her nannies and Egyptian parents, was voted into the list of 50 most influential women in Israel in 1999. Despite winning the Prime Minister’s award twice and the Tel Aviv award for fiction, only one other of her 11 books has previously been translated into English (“Human Parts” by David Godine in 2004).

Associate Director Martin Riker, said of this eclectic selection:

Literary excellence is the guiding principle. It’s not just about diversity of styles and traditions and philosophical traditions, the series will seek to represent the diversity of types of excellence. The books will be in line with the books that Dalkey Archive has always published — innovative, provocative, and the highest expressions of literary art.

Let’s hope this is a genuine commitment, not just a recognition of the disproportionate size of the Jewish book-buying public!

[This article has been amended to reflect the fact that Orly Castel-Bloom’s novel “Dolly City” was originally published in English by the British publisher, Loki Books.]

Eshkol Nevo (grandson of Israeli PM Levi Eshkol, but known by family name first and foremost) talks to the Forward at the recent International Writers’ Festival at Mishkenot Sha’ananim.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yoram Kaniuk, Orly Castel-Bloom, Office of Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel, Eshkol Nevo, Dalkey Archive

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.