The Jewish literary tradition has been remarkable for centuries, and although the modern Israeli State has a shorter history compared to that of other countries, the Israeli literature is an example of the great management of the written language and an incredible ability to tell stories. In this post, I will mention some of the most remarkable contemporary Israeli writers, so that you, reader, know a universe that goes beyond Woody Allen, Franz Kafka or Anna Frank, and find something interesting to read this winter.
Considered as one of the most important contemporary writers in Hebrew and winner of the Israel Prize for Literature (1988) and the Goethe Prize for Literature (2005) for his autobiographical book A history of love and darkness. He has been and candidate (several times) to the Nobel Prize for Literature (and we hope he wins it one day.) He is also an incredible professor of literature at the Ben-Gurion University of Beer Sheba in the Negev and has been a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts for many years.
Recommended books: My Michael, Black Box and Panther in the basement.
Undoubtedly, one of the best contemporary poets in Hebrew. His work deals with everyday themes, ironies and painful passions, sometimes religion, or the city of Jerusalem. His contribution extends beyond his own literary achievements to an influence that has helped to create a modern Israeli poetry. Those topics once judged as prosaic: tanks, airplanes, fuel, administrative contracts, are listed in his work and have become a poetic reality. His work shows the desire to confront and reflect the current problems and portrays with new hardness and irony the contemporary social environment of Israel. His passion for the use of new themes and metaphors and the innovative use of the Hebrew language, in which the threads of classical and modern Hebrew are combined and blurred are some of his remarkable features. Influenced by the wit and irony of English poetry, Amichai used the slopes of the local tradition, giving a new meaning to the colloquial language and the jargon idioms in Hebrew.
Recommended books: Killing Him: A Radio Play, Not of this Time, Not of this Place and Songs of Jerusalem and Myself.
Some people still call her “the Agatha Christie of Israel”. She started late to write fiction (at age of 41), and several of her characters are based on famous individuals from the academic world of Israel. In 1988 she began writing one of her most popular series, starring her character Ohayon, a complex-minded detective. Her first novel, The Saturday Morning Murder, was successfully adapted by television in her country, and it meant a large fan audience that keeps growing today. With her intimate knowledge of the human nature and her peculiar style to approach the knot of daily problems, Batya Gur drives any reader to very interesting plots that don’t let you drop the book. She died of cancer at the age of 57.
Recommended books: Literary murder: a critical case, Bethlehem Road murder: A Michael Ohayon Mystery and Murder in Jerusalem: A Michael Ohayon Mystery.
Read also: 4 amazing things Sagan passed down to all teachers, by Yosef Meystel
One of the most famous and translated authors in the world. David Grossman began writing for children and young people and his first adult novel was The Smile of the Lamb, published in 1983. Grossman is considered one of the most important writers of contemporary Israeli literature and his works, translated into many languages, have been awarded many times. Several of his novels have been taken to the cinema.
Recommended books: The Smile of the Lamb, The Zigzag Kid and To the End of the Land.
This bestselling author is one of the most remarkable surprises of the Israeli contemporary literature. Zeruya Shalev’s novels have been translated into more than 22 languages. In Germany, she became known thanks to Love Life, the first volume of her romance novel about the modern romantic life. Here she describes the inner tensions of a young woman who falls in love with an older man, actually a friend of her father, and falls into decay as a result of him.
In Husband and Wife, the failure of a marriage is described in a way you probably have never read before. The protagonist, after many years of common living together, will leave her husband surprisingly, understanding her innovation as an opportunity and will be left alone with her child.
Recommended books: Love Life, Husband and Wife and The Remains of Love.
The Jewish community around the world is proud of the new Nobel Prize for Literature, Bob Dylan. This is a wonderful example of excellence, not only because of his contributions to music. His prize is a reminder that literature derives from music, and it takes us back to the origins of this noble art.
Recommended: Jewish Nobel Prize winners in literature