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David Grossman (b. 1954)

 

Israeli novelist, journalist, and children's storywriter, who has examined in his works Jewish-Palestinian relations in the Occupied Territories. In 1991, Grossman was awarded the Nelly Sachs Prize for his literary oeuvre. Grossman has also received the Israel Prize for A Life Project 2004 for his special contribution to society and to the State of Israel.

"The Palestinians, as is well known, are making use of the ancient Jewish strategy of exile and have removed themselves from history. They close their eyes against harsh reality. and stubbornly clamping down their eyelids, they fabricate their Promised Land. "Next year in Jerusalem," said the Jews in Latvia and in Cracow and in San'a, and the meaning was that they were not willing to compromise. Because they had no hope for any real change." (in The Yellow Wind, 1987)

David Grossman was born in Jerusalem, the son of Yizchak Grossman, originally from Austria, and Michaela, a Jerusalemite. Grossman's father had emigrated to Palestine in 1936. He did not reveal much of his childhood but once gave his son Sholem Aleichem's book Adventures of Mottel, the Cantor's Son, saying: "Read, read, it's just how things were with us." At home Grossman learned to love Yiddish literature, but before becoming a writer, Grossman worked on the radio. Already at the age of nine, was a youth reporter.

After his military service, Grossman continued his radio work and then entered Hebrew University, where he studied philosophy and theatre. Grossman graduated in 1979. Before publishing his first collection of stories, Ratz  (1983), Grossman received the Neuman Prize for his story 'Yani on the Mountain'. 'Donkeys' was awarded in 1980 the Harry Hirshon Prize.

Grossman's established his fame as a leading Israeli novelist in the 1980s. His first novel, Hiyukh ha-gedi (1983, The Smile of the Lamb), examined life in the West Bank under Israeli occupation. The critically appraised book was made in 1985 into film, directed by Shimon Dotan. The Yellow Wind (1987) was an account of Grossman's observations on the West Bank, where he noted that refugees have "turned themselves voluntarily into doubles of the real people who once were, in another place. Into people who hold in their hands only one real asset: the ability to wait."

Politically liberal, Grossman resigned in 1988 his radio post to protest restrictions on journalistic work, especially in Palestinian issues. In the same year, Grossman received the Har Zion Prize in recognition of his efforts to enhance peace and understanding between Arabs and Jews.

Grossman has acknowledged Kafka and Böll as his literary beacons. 'Ayen erekh: 'ahavah' (1986, See Under: Love), Grossman's second novel, was compared in the New York Times Book Review with such celebrated works as William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum and García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. The central characters in the interlinked stories, narrated by four voices, are Momik Neumann, the only child of Holocaust survivors, Bruno Schulz, a real-life writer, who was murdered by the Nazis, Anshel Wasserman, Momik's granduncle, and Kazik, the hero of one of Wasserman's stories. Momik in the first section associates Nazism with a beast the cellar, and he decides to capture and tame it. Like the protagonist in The Tin Drum, Aaron in The Book of Intimate Grammar (1991) stops growing physically. The novel ends with Aaron's possible suicide, on the eve of the Six Day War in 1967.

From his early works, Grossman has used modernist narrative techniques, stream-of-consciousness writing, multifaceted views, and experimented with fantasy, especially through the worlds of children. Grossman has also written a series for children about a boy named Itamar. Itamar metapes al kirot (1986), a play, has participated in international festivals in Belgium, Holland, Poland, Germany, and Austria. It was also invited to participate in an international festival for children's theater in Montreal in September 2004.

After publishing works dealing with Arab/Jewish relations or Holocaust themes, Grossman focused in Someone To Run With (2000) on the life of Jerusalem's drug addicts and runaways. The love story of Tamar, a runaway, and Assaf, an errand boy, combined fairy-tale elements with realistic portrayal of street kids. "Ultimately, this is a literary political novel, or a politico-literary novel," wrote Claire Messud in The New York Times, "that engages us with the means and effects of its storytelling more intently than with its depiction of any actual world." (February 8, 2004) The book was awarded the Sappir Prize for Literature in 2001.

Death as a Way of Life: Israel Ten Years After Oslo (2003) collected Grossman's essays and articles from al-Ayyam, The Guardian, Newsweek and other magazines and newspapers from 1993. "The agreement made with the Palestinians will bring them back to history," Grossman wrote optimistically after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat had signed in 1993 the Oslo Accords."If people receive a place of their own, they can also return to time, to the natural progress of history. With such a people. one can begin to conduct negotiations between equals and to establish tolerable neighborly relations."

Grossman is considered one of Israel's most perceptive writers, who has with his work and constant activity brought closer together secular and religious people. In May 2005 Grossman and Amos Elon were named winners of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize 2004. Grossman's Someone to Run With won the Fiction Award, Amos Elon took the Non-Fiction Prize. In August 2006 Grossman joined A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz in a plea to Israeli Prime Minister to reach a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. A few days later Grossman's son Uri died, after his tank was hit by a Hezbollah missile. Grossman was awarded in 2010 the German Book Trade Peace Prize.

Grossman began writing To the End of the Land in 2003. The story about two friends, Avram and Ilan, who love the same girl, takes place between 1967 and 2000. Ora marries Ilan, has a child with him, but later also with Avram. War and other forces beyond one's control destroy Avram's life, but Ora raises his son as Ilan's own. Falling Out of Time (2011), not set in Israel, tells about coping with the loss of a child. Following President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on the country's uprising, Grossman and other writers, such as Umberto Eco, Amos Oz, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, and Wole Soyinka, urged in June 2011 the United Nations to condemn the repression in Syria as a crime against humanity.

For further reading: The Arab in Israeli Literature by Gila Ramras-Rauch (1989); Imagining the Child in Modern Jewish Fiction by Naomi Sokoooff (1992); World Authors 1985-1990, ed.  Vineta Colby (1995); Encyclopedia of the Novel, vol. 1, ed. by Paul Schellinger (1998); Encyclopedia of the World Literature in the 20th Century, Vol. 2, ed. Steven R. Serafin (1999) - Special thanks to Orly Orava for her help with this page

Selected works:

  • Du-kerav, 1982 - Duel: a Mystery (translated by Betsy Rosenberg, 2004)
  • Rats: sipurim, 1983 [ Jogger]
  • Hiyukh ha-gedi, 1983 - The Smile of the Lamb (translated by Betsy Rosenberg, 1990)
  • Ah hadash legamre, 1986 [A Brand New Brother]
  • 'Ayen 'erech: Ahavah, 1986 - See Under: Love (translated by Betsy Rosenberg, 1989) - Hakusana rakkaus (suom. Kristiina Lampola, 2000)
  • Itamar metayel 'al kirot, 1986 [Hamar Climbs the Walls]
  • Itamar mikhtav, 1986
  • Zeman ha-tsahov, 1987 - The Yellow Wind (translated by Haim Watzman, 1988)
  • Gan Riki, 1988 (play) [Riki's Playgroup]
  • Itamar pogesh arnav, 1988 [Itamar Meets a Rabbit]
  • Itamar tzayad halomot, 1990 [Itamar the Dream Hunter]
  • Ha-safah ha-miuhedet shel Uri, 1990 [Uri's Special Language]
  • Sefer ha-dikduk ha-penimi, 1991 - The Book of Intimate Grammar (translated by Betsy Rosenber, 1994) - Sydämen kielioppi (suom. Kristiina Lampola, 1994)
  • War Diaries, 1991 [The Diaries of Moshe Sharettt and Ben Gurion]
  • Nokhehim nifkadim, 1992 - Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel (translated by Haim Watzman, 1993)
  • Itamar ve-kova ha-ksamim ha-shahor, 1992 [Itamar and the Black Hat]
  • Yesh yeladim zigzag, 1994 - The Zigzag Kid (translated by Betsy Rosenberg, 1997)
  • Sefer ha-siim shel Fozz, 1994 [Fozz's Book of Poems]
  • Hayo Haytem Shnei kofim, 1996 [Once Upon a Time You Were Two Monkeys]
  • She-tihyi li ha-sakin, 1998 - Be My Knife (translated by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz, 2001)
  • Mishehu la-ruts ito, 2000 - Someone To Run With (translated by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz, 2004)
  • Ba-guf ani mevinah, 2003 - Her Body Knows: Two Novellas (translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen, 2005)
  • Mavet Kederech Chaim, 2003 - Death as a Way of Life: Israel Ten Years After Oslo (translated by Haim Watzman, 2003)
  • Devash arayot, 2005 - Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson (translated by Stuart Schoffman, 2006) - Leijonahunaja: Simsonin myytti (suom. Kristiina Lampola, 2006)
  • Momik, 2005
  • Wariting in the Dark: Essays on Literature and Politics, 2008 (translated by Jessica Cohen)
  • Isha borahat mi-besorah, 2008 - To the End of the Land (translated by Jessica Cohen, 2010)
  • Falling Out of Time, 2011


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