The Arty Semite

Éliette Abécassis, 'Hereby Permitted' to Readers

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
Studio Harcourt Paris

Perhaps the brainiest current romance novelist is the French Jewish writer Éliette Abécassis, born in 1969 in Strasbourg to an Orthodox Sephardic family. Her father, Armand Abécassis, is an historian of Jewish spirituality and prolific author himself. Éliette Abécassis teaches philosophy at the University of Caen and also writes middle-brow, accessible fiction about the storm and stress of being an Orthodox Jewish woman today.

She co-wrote the screenplay for the 1999 film “Kadosh” directed by Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitaï, set in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim, and one critic described the movie as “two horror stories intertwined, about women tyrannized by men in the name of religious belief.” Her latest novel, out from Les éditions Albin Michel in August — with a Kindle version released on September 28 — suggests that Abécassis has more to say on the same subject.

The title of the novel, “You are Hereby Permitted to All Men” cites the Orthodox document for divorce, known as a “get,” which is presented by a husband to his wife, ending their marriage. If a husband refuses to cooperate, which is what happens in Abécassis’s novel, the wife may become what is called an Agunah‎, or “chained woman” in Hebrew. The protagonist of “You are Hereby Permitted to All Men,” Anna Attal, is an intellectual Judaica bookstore employee. After obtaining a civil divorce, she meets a new suitor in the form of a shopper named Sacha Steiner. Anna complains that her ex-husband was a lousy lover, which is not just grounds for divorce, she notes, it goes against the Kabbalah:

The man must kiss the woman at the moment of their union. The Kabbalists write that… the husband is obliged to satisfy her. If he transgresses that law, she has every right to ask for a divorce.

Yet when Anna consults her local rabbi, whom she likens to the 1950s images of Moroccan Jews by photographer Elias Harrus, he is ineffectual when her ex-husband proves obstinate. She obtains an annulment from Jerusalem rabbis which has no weight in Paris, and when she finally receives the get in France, it reads that she is “Permitted to All Men” except Sacha Steiner, who by then has already impregnated her. All this narrative tsoris led one French blogger to sniff ironically that Abécassis had “perfected the syncretism of the Harlequin Romance with the Kabbalah.” Less snobby readers will be intrigued by this heartfelt, informed story of an Orthodox women’s emotional vulnerability and travails.

Watch Éliette Abécassis present her latest bestseller, “You are Hereby Permitted to All Men.”

And here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Éliette Abécassis, Amos Gitai

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!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • 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.