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Meir Shalev, My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir (Schocken Books)

A lighthearted tale of family ties and over-the-top housekeeping in the village of Meir Shalev's birth, where his unforgettable Grandma Tonia, who came to Palestine by boat from Russia in 1923, lived in a constant state of battle with the family's biggest enemy in their adoptive land: dirt.
Grandma Tonia was never seen without a cleaning rag over her shoulder, and she allowed only the most privileged guests to enter her spotless house.  This matriarch and her hilarious regulations come richly to life in a narrative that circles around the arrival into the family's dusty agricultural midst of the big, shiny American sweeper sent as a gift by Uncle Yeshayahu (who had emigrated to the capitalist heaven of Los Angeles).  The fate of the "svieeperrr" - which Tonia hid away for decades after its initual use - is a family mystery that Shalev determines to solve in this charming memoir of the obsessive but loving Tonia, and the grit and humor of the pioneers who gave his childhood its spirit of wonder.

Yair Lapid, Memories After My Death (Elliott &Thompson Books)

Memories After My Death
is the astonishing true story of Tommy Lapid, a well-loved and controversial Israeli figure who witnessed the developmpent of the country from all angles over its first sixty years.  A Jewish kid who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and arrived in Tel Aviv at the birth of Israel, Tommy Lapid was a journalist, playwright, international businessman, TV star, and finally, deputy prime minister and leader of the anti-Orthodox movement.  His is a very personal story as well as the breathtaking saga of a nation that emerged from the ashes.
Memories After My Death was written by Tommy's son Yair, the popular television broadcaster, journalist and author.

Alon Hilu, House of Rajani (Harvill Secker/Random House UK)

The year is 1895, Jaffa. Salah Rajani, a troubled Muslim boy living in a dilapidated mansion surrounded by orange groves, suffers from peculiar visions about a disaster which is set to befall his people.  His life is changed by the arrival of a handsome young man, a dynamic Jewish settler, new to the city, by the name of Isaac Luminsky. Luminsky covets both the fertile lands of the Rajani estate and Salah's beautiful mother Afifa, and his friendship with the boy is destined to lead to violence and tragedy.
This rich and colourful novel is made up of the two opposing journals of Hilu's intriguing and extraordinary protagonists as they negotiate love, honour and betrayal in the changing world of nineteenth-century Palestine.

Meir Shalev, A Pigeon and a Boy (Pantheon)

Finalist for the PEN Translation Prize

This mesmerizing novel by internationally acclaimed Israeli novelist Meir Shalev is set in both contemporary Israel and during the 1948 War of Independence: two stories of love, separated by half a century, but connected by one magical act of devotion.

In 1948--a time when pigeons are still used to deliver battlefield messages--a gifted young pigeon handler is mortally wounded. In the moments before his death, he dispatches one last pigeon. The bird is carrying his indelible gift to the girl he has loved since adolescence. Intertwined with this story is that of the girl’s son--an expert birdwatcher who, in middle age falls in love again with a childhood girlfriend, his growing passion for her, along with a gift from his mother on her deathbed, becoming the key to a life he thought no longer possible.

Unforgettable in both its particulars and its sweep, A Pigeon and A Boy is rich in description and detail, and soaring in imagination. In a voice that is at once playful, wise, heartbreaking, and altogether beguiling, it tells a story as universal as war, and as intimate as a whispered declaration of love.

Meir Shalev’s six novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards including, in 2006, the Brenner Prize--the most prestigious Israeli literary award--for A Pigeon and a Boy. He is a columnist for the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, and lives with his family in Jerusalem and northern Israel.


Ron Leshem, Beaufort (Bantam)
Runner up for the 2010 Times Literary Supplement Risa Domb/Porjes Prize for the Translation of Hebrew Literature.  From the judges' comments: "Evan Fallenberg creatively transfers the colloquial and idiosyncratic language from one cultural context to another. Humour, macabre irony, love and fear are all conveyed through the reconstruction of the young soldiers' authentic language in English. The fluency and flexibility of the English translation faithfully recreate the sensibilities, complexities and tones of the Hebrew original."

This stunning debut—winner of Israel’s top literary prize in 2006 and now a Berlin International Film Festival award-winning movie—is a haunting coming-of-age story set at an Israeli outpost in southern Lebanon.

Beaufort, a beautiful and deadly Crusader fort in southern Lebanon, is a world of its own, an enclave in the heart of enemy territory where young Israeli soldiers create a state with its own rules and its own unique language.

Written as the diary of Liraz Liberti, the twenty-one-year-old head of a thirteen-man commando team stationed at Beaufort during the last winter of Israeli occupation, BEAUFORT addresses the horrors and absurdities of war head-on, as seen through the eyes of the young men who must fight it. Following soldiers as they struggle through impossibly dangerous and vague missions, wrestle with the meaning of war and death, and wonder about love, sex, and their relationships with the people they left behind in Israel, this searing novel expresses the impossible reality in which the young men, all in their late teens or early 20s, move into adulthood through the most challenging rites of passage.

Wild and hypnotic, in indelible scenes that echo the experience of men stationed in Iraq, BEAUFORT powerfully captures the soldier's experience and the ways that war changes not only those who fight, but also those who wait for them to come home.

Ron Leshem is deputy director in charge of programming at Channel Two, Israel’s main commercial television network. He lives in Tel Aviv and is at work on his second novel.


Alon Hilu, Death of a Monk (Harvill Secker/Random House UK)

The place is Damascus, the year 1840. A stormy nighttime encounter between the Italian monk Tomaso and Atzlan Farhi, a Jewish youth and scion of a wealthy family of merchants, ends in an unexpected death of terrible ramifications: the Jews of Damascus are accused of having murdered the monk in order to use his blood for the baking of Passover matzahs.

In rich, vivid language that startles in its virtuosity and versatility, Death of a Monk presents a fictitious version of the historical event known as the Damascus Blood Libel. The hero of this version is the youth Atzlan, who is grappling with his desire for men within the constricts of a traditional patriarchal society and who complicates matters when he falls in love with two mysterious characters: Mahmud Altali, a yellow-haired, blue-eyed Christian Arab investigating the monk’s disappearance, and Umm-Jihan, a stunningly beautiful singer who performs at a coffee house that offers pleasures of every kind to all who seek them.

The Damascus of Death of a Monk is a colorful city, lively and sensual, and very dark as well, teeming with fear, malice and hostility. In its alleyways and marketplaces, Alon Hilu unfolds his surprising, powerful historical and literary tour de force, whose source is an emotional and sexual conflict and whose outcome is a blood libel.

Alon Hilu was born in 1972. He lives with his family in Tel Aviv, where he practices law. Death of a Monk is his first novel.

Read a Review from the Independent


Batya Gur, Murder in Jerusalem (HarperCollins)

Modern Israel is a place filled with contradictions: the beautiful landscape often rife with human conflict; the tranquil and the peaceful in constant struggle with terrible destruction; and amazing human love and kindness set against a backdrop of civil strife. Through the eyes of a writer like Batya Gur and her supreme creation, Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon, these contradictions and complexities are treated with an intimate familiarity and a rare depth of understanding.

When the body of a woman is discovered in the wardrobe warehouses of Israel Television, the brooding Oyahon embarks on a tangled and bloody journey of detection through the corridors and studios of Israel’s official television station and, especially, through the relations, tensions, fears, loves and courage of the people who make the station what it is. It is a journey that brings into question the very ideals upon which Ohayon -- and indeed the entire nation -- was raised, ideals that may have led to terrible crimes.

Chief Superindentent Ohayon has spent his career surrounded by perplexing and horrific cases, but perhaps nothing disturbs him more deeply that what this mysterious woman's murder reveals. For the media, which is often at the center of the Israeli consciousness -- a place where political tensions, hostility, corruption and the ethnic, social and religious divisions that shake the nation come together -- may indeed be at the root of an unspeakable evil.

Murder in Jerusalem is the crowning achievement of a magnificent career, this final installment in the Michael Ohayon series a wonderful parting gift from the incomparable Batya Gur -- one last fascinating visit to an always tumultuous land, in the company of a writer and a detective so many devoted readers have loved so well.

Read a review from the New York Times.


Yair Lapid, Sunset in Moscow

Vardi Kahana, One Family exhibition for the Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York

Gilad Evron, The Falcon (Granta Magazine #91)

Gilad Evron, Only Language Remains (a play)

Natan Zach, The Ghost in the Desk

Savyon Liebrecht, Brigitta's Man

Lior Navok, The Little Mermaid a libretto for an original musical composition

Agur Schiff, Bad Habits

Ariel Hirschfeld,  Botanical Epiphany (Israel Museum catalog), The Princess and the Pea: In Memory of Batya Gur

Assaf Gavron, Moving

Mishka Ben David, Duet in Beirut

Nitza Eyal, Psychological Images

Rina Mitrani, Every Home Needs a Balcony

Yigal Sarna, Flood





© 2011 Evan Fallenberg.