Betrayal, Love & Revenge by Aviva Laskov
This is a short – three session-course of Modern Israel literature, about the authors who have produced unforgettable books and about the people who read them. Hebrew literature can be defined as such from biblical times. Modern Hebrew literature, however, has been around for two centuries only.
We will focus on modern Israeli literature – last 70 years or so- paying close attention to literary means (such as metaphors, characterization, personification) on the one hand but also to the context in which they were created and received on the other. We will discuss how modern Israeli authors continuously have relevant dialogues with other texts across millennia and geographies. Israeli readers are almost eaves dropping on dialogues between texts of different eras. This phenomenon is so poignantly echoed by Sidra De Koven Ezrahi (in her book entitled Booking Passage, 2000, p.5):
“Manuscripts they read and wrote in this region two millennia ago are front page items in today’s’ newspapers”.
In her overview of Israeli literature (viewpoints Special Edition Israel: Growing Pains at 60, Reflections on Israeli Literature 2010) Glenda Abramson observes:
“At sixty, Israeli literature is sophisticated and modern, stylish and profound, Flippant and serious. Its topics range from the Holocaust to American movies and its Style from jazz to prophecy. It is a fractious, difficult, idiosyncratic literature. Amos Oz once wrote that the history of Hebrew literature is full of sound and fury. So is the Literature itself.”
In the works ahead of us there is indeed an abundance of fury, love, revenge and betrayal. We will approach each literary work by presenting the author, giving a short synopsis of the plot. In keeping with the principle of a text-based course, some excerpts from each book are included in this booklet to allow everyone to participate (whether one had previously read the book or not). Each book brings to the fore a number of themes which we will attempt to explore during these three “Melton style book club sessions” (2-hour seminars).
Approaching literature which was written in a language other than one’s own requires “translating” or what Alan Mintz calls “domesticating the foreignness'” (in his 2001 book Translating Israel, p.59). There are many theories about the pros and cons of reading/teaching literature in translation, those are relevant, yet we cannot but mention them in the framework of this course.
A few words about the choice of books here:
While the aim is to have a glimpse into Israeli literature, an almost arbitrary selection has taken place. Three stellar recent books of highly acknowledged Israeli authors were chosen. Can these be representatives of all Israeli literature? Certainly not. The amount of writing in Israel is
one of the highest in the world (usually between 7000-8000), the number of books published, bought and read is astounding. Other than Judas there are many books highlighting Betrayal. Other than Meir Shalev’s Two She-Bears, many other writers have written about revenge, and as for love – it has been the subject of many poems and novels, directly or indirectly, from time immemorial. Choosing Zeruya Shalev’s Love Life is one of many. More often than not all of these emotions and human situations feature in one book.
So let the journey begin…