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!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • 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.