Hot Off the Press: The Latest in Translated Israeli Lit

Summer is seeping away, the nights are getting longer, and the Jewish holidays are upon us as a rough year creeps into the home stretch… What better time to catch up on your reading, with a focus on some recently translated Israeli lit?

In the New York Times, Peter Orner reviews A.B. Yehoshua’s new novel, The Tunnel, translated by Stuart Schoffman, which focuses on a retired engineer dealing with the early stages of a dementia diagnosis. Orner draws a connection between protagonist Zvi’s deteriorating mental faculties and the political stagnation of contemporary Israeli society, and concludes that Yehoshua’s novel offers “great beauty,” rather than answers.

If you’re ready to venture from the established greats of Israeli literature to some exciting new voices, here comes a roundup of my recent translation projects, all available on Amazon and (hopefully) at other online and physical booksellers of your choice.

Avi Friede The Woman in the Reflection is another delightfully unclassifiable novel: a character study, a love story, and, as events gather momentum toward the novel’s conclusion, increasingly a page-turner as well. Friede’s protagonist Baruch is convinced he has been granted a direct line to a higher power, and that his likes and dislikes, and particularly any anger he directs at those around him, shape and determine people’s fate. Friede wisely lets his reader make the final decision on whether his hero is correct in his assumptions… Meanwhile, Baruch engages with two complex women with their own belief systems, defense mechanisms, hopes and fears, providing a satisfying glimpse into the lives of several unique characters as well as a complelling look at current Israeli society.

If you want to travel further afield, into more exotic realms, I can warmly recommend Eti Dayan’s memoir One of Them: My Life Among the Maasai of Kenya. Dayan enjoyed the rare privilege of living among the Massai in Africa for many years as a fellow villager and adopted family member, rather than a visitor or tourist. Her perspective on life among the Maasai, on dealing with cultural differences and on controversial issues such as female circumcision is insightful, candid, honest and very engaging, and the people with whom she interacts come alive as vivid, three-dimensional characters. One of Them provides a sharply written, enlightening and entertaining refuge from the reality currently outside our windows and on our TV screens.

Also in the realm of nonfiction is Ruth Dayan Wolfner’s The Karma Effect, a deep-dive into the topic of divorce from the unique perspective of a divorce lawyer. While Dayan Wolfner offers plenty of valuable legal tips, considerations and strategies to anyone dealing with divorce, her book is equally focused on the emotional aspects of this experience, delving into topics that include infidelity, the impact on kids, abuse of various kinds, second marriages and more. The Karma Effect includes many fascinating anecdotes from Dayan Wolfner’s impressive professional experience, all supporting her main thesis: in divorce, as in many other areas in life, karma’s a bitch, and has a way of ensuring you ultimately get what you give.

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