Presentation text for Croc Attack in Thessaloniki

This is the wonderful presentation to Croc Attack in the novel’s launch event in the Public book store in Thessaloniki, written and presented by the Greek Bestselling, Salonikian author, Isidoros Zourgos. Translated from Greek to English by Christina Theochari.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, we have the pleasure today to introduce to Thessaloniki the Israeli writer Assaf Gavron and his novel Croc Attack, his first book translated and published in the Greek language and published this week by Bartzoulianos Editions.

Dear friends, more often than not, the presenters of a recently published book face a few common problems: they certainly wish to inform the readers about the plot and the action of the book, until a point which also consists a volatile limit, while on the other hand, no one wants to disturb the freedom of the readers and their right to embark on a personal exploration, diving into a new universe – every novel is itself a new universe, one should not forget. In other words, the presenter is invited to enlighten by using one’s own projectors targeting these points that he deems important, valuable, holding some special literary weight. But this “nosy” illumination of the text is in no way a navigation guide for the reader; it is more a call to a substantial introduction to the novel and its author. Croc Attack is one of those books which are not afraid to be exposed to the light from the beginning, and this is one of its primary virtues – others will follow.

Our first stop and a first illumination: In my opinion, this is a novel with an action-movie rhythm, a simple yet eloquent language, concisely descriptive with an effectively staccato tone, wherever necessary. Listen to a few examples: “her lips were soft like a feather and salty as the sea itself” (p. 145), or “The sky was the color of blue so cold and clear as the eyes of a Siamese cat” (p. 161), and also: a woman was shot the very same time that she was draining the washed clothes. They shot a kid who had painted his face green and mocked them“(p. 210 ).

The language of Gavron has colours, smells, tastes, always in such a discreet way, as much as it is required each time. The recipe for fiction carried out by the writer seems suspicious when it comes to adjectives; he uses images of nature with exceptional scarcity, for example the weeds – parched by the sun, used as precious spices. Or the antithesis to the buzzing city – the slopes of the countryside, its caves, a humble donkey that functions by obeying to the rules of contrast; maybe it also incites some subcutaneous biblical memories, touching the Jewish, Muslim and Christian collective subconscious.

Gavron proves a master of speech, disciplined, restrained in its lyricism. I appreciate the fact that he knows very well that the emotional overflow is not a high art in itself . Assaf  Gavron is not simply a descriptive narrator – certainly not an impartial one (how could this be possible after all), but fairly biased in a landscape of persistent conflict; he does not hesitate to play with fire , always within his art, i.e. not by using slogans or cries but with the mighty whisper of an ailing human being.

I continue with more illuminations, by outlining the two main heroes of the novel. Eitan Enoch, or Croc, is Israeli, and Fahmi a Palestinian. They share more than anyone might imagine. Although they live in two hostile nations, have different religions or conditions of everyday life and work, they are nevertheless partners, sharing the same tragic experience.

Croc is a symbol and a victim of western modernity, a helot serving technology through the structure of a modern corporation; he lives like a scared rabbit, running into a bustling Tel Aviv, trapped in traffic, in a deafening buzz of explosions and terror, in an impasse of personal relationships. Croc is a man fundamentally illiberal. His oppressors are originally from his own country, established by the logic of his father’s generation. His oppressors are also the enemy bombs, his fiancée, his job – focused on saving and selling spare time to companies and persons, the damned unused spare time which proves to be such a tyrannical nightmare of the modern world. Croc’s job truly has some Kafkaesque extensions at times

(such as the labyrinth paths taken for the qualitative evaluation of the employees), with abundantly interwoven black humor. I read from page 145, where Croc is talking: “Once I smoked, when I was in the army, but now I would simply lose precious time.” As the novel unfolds, Croc resumes smoking but he doesn’t enjoy it anymore. Our hero seems trapped, doomed.

Croc’s life is dominated by the omnipotent media that use him as a bait and a “broken idol”; he is dominated even by psychiatry sessions, which are described with a Woody Allen irony. His life is dominated by the attraction he feels for more than one girl, but sex remains on all pages stubbornly ineffective. Croc, through the eyes of Gavron, seems like a modern quixotic seeker of happiness, but his dream is not one of chivalry or windmills, but the serenity and warm bosom of a girl.

On the other hand, Palestinian Fahmi is the second hero in this evolution of ancient drama of the Middle East. We learn about him through his own inner monologue, since he is lying comatose in the hospital after most of the action of the novel is finished. Fahmi starts the thread of narration from his grandfather in the early years after the Second World War, when it took him an hour on the donkey for a particular route, while today the asphalt road running through continuous outposts and roadblocks , identity checks and car queues, takes three hours.Top of Form

 

Fahmi has his own oppressors: political slavery, poverty, violation of rights, psychological domination from his older brother, who also embodies the standard and unbearable burden of racial pride and tradition. He is also dominated by religion and the duties arising from it; lastly, he is suppressed by grief and fear because of a special task he is entrusted with – a terrorist attack – that he had not chosen for himself.

It is with mastery that the author presents Croc and Fahmi , how they crawl under psychological violence, reluctant symbols of resistance – each for his people, while they have not asked for it, nor do not they have actually ever liked it. Two societies in perennial heartbreak select their victims, in order to continue the ritual of human sacrifice in an endless drama. Yet Croc and Fahmi only wanted to enjoy their youth, to fall in love looking carefree at the full moon in Palestine. Their fate, however, was to become the heroes in a timeless tragedy without catharsis in the end.

For anyone who has not visited the state of Israel and the West Bank, for any reader from another country who knows the Palestinian problem only from the television and the newspapers, such as myself, there is a point when it is time for reading. Then, the heroes of the novel are released from the shackles of time and space. This is a tough bet in literature, which Gavron seems to be winning. The history of Croc and Fahmi is quite common, in one way or another, in many corners of the world, in recent decades; Belfast and the fight between Catholics and Protestants, or the conflict in the Basque region, where, between the pincers of hate there will always be young people who yearn for the carefree moon and the warmth of another body, where there will always be a Croc to console a tearful girl outside a cemetery or a Fahmi who excels in tenderness and humanness by feeding carrots to a malnourished donkey in Palestine.

For those of you who will read the novel, you will get to know them, these and several other characters, including the donkey, of course…

Dear Assaf Gavron, welcome to Greece, lay down your gifts and let us meet.

 

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Event in Athens, Greece

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Launch event for Croc Attack Greek edition in the Polis Cafe, Athens.

Presenter: Jean Cohen; Presenter: Kostas.

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Croc Attack published in Greek!

Croc Attack is published in a Greek edition.

Translated from English by Christina Theochari.

Buy >>>

(Apparently they have copies I signed in my recent visit to Athens)

 

 

 

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Interview about The Hilltop in Austrian magazine, Wiener Zeitung

Interview by Christina Hoeferer in Austrian newspaper, Wiener Zeitung.

Read article (German) >>>

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Review of The Hilltop in FAZ (Germany)

Notable German author Eva Menasse wrote a review of the German edition of The Hilltop in Germany’s leading daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung (FAZ). Here is the full review:

SAMSTAG, 30. NOVEMBER 2013
BERUF UND CHANCE
Für eine Handvoll Tomaten
Eskalationsgefahr im Heiligen Land: Assaf Gavron erzählt in seinem Roman „Auf fremdem Land“ von israelischen Siedlern im Westjordanland.

Von Eva Menasse

Erst ist es nur ein Feld für Kirschtomaten, das Otniel Asis anlegt, zwei Kilometer von seinem israelischen Heimatdorf im Westjordanland entfernt. Gleich angrenzend ein Olivenhain der Araber, dahinter das erste arabische Dorf. Einmal werden Otniel ein paar Tomaten geklaut, „woraufhin er mit einigen Siedlergefährten in das Dorf hineingefahren war, ein bisschen randaliert und in die Luft geschossen und jeden gewarnt hatte, der es noch einmal wagen würde“. Es kommt nicht mehr vor, trotzdem holt sich Otniel die Erlaubnis zur Errichtung einer Wächterhütte. Sie wird bewilligt, damit gilt das Tomatenfeld als „landwirtschaftlicher Betrieb“.

Otniel liebt sein Feld und seine Tomaten, er liebt die Einsamkeit der Grenzregion. Schließlich zieht er mit seiner Familie in einen primitiven Wohnwagen direkt am Feldesrand. Und plötzlich stehen ein paar weitere Wohnwagen da, gespendet von einem reichen Juden aus Miami. Familien ziehen ein, Otniel besorgt einen Stromgenerator für alle. Weil der Wind hier manchmal böse weht, beginnt man, die Wohnwagen mit Steinplatten zu verkleiden. Weil jede jüdische Ansiedlung in den besetzten Gebieten Anspruch auf Schutz hat, wird bald ein provisorischer Militärposten errichtet: „So setzte sich der Stützpunkt auf dem Hügel fest.“ Das sind die ersten paar Seiten von Assaf Gavrons Roman „Auf fremdem Land“.

Es gibt Romane, die durch die Schönheit ihrer Sprache oder die Intelligenz ihrer Struktur bestechen. Und es gibt andere Romane, die einfach eine Geschichte erzählen, aber neu und unerhört anders. Ein solcher Roman ist „Auf fremdem Land“. Geduldig stellt Gavron scharf auf die kleinen Nöte und menschlichen Beweggründe seiner Protagonisten, bezieht alle involvierten Sphären wie Justiz, Politik und Militär ein und dringt so zu tiefen Schichten der Erkenntnis vor. Er bringt einen, sosehr man sich dagegen wehrt, dazu, die Welt auch aus den Augen der Siedler zu sehen.

Das Ergebnis ist ein politischer Roman im allerbesten Sinn, der nie plump indoktrinieren will, sondern eine verwickelte Geschichte mit äußerster Genauigkeit und allen Ambivalenzen erzählt. Der Leser soll sich sein eigenes Bild machen. Das ist zwar am Ende kein entscheidend anderes als vorher (die Siedlungen sind eine Katastrophe, und es wird keinen Frieden geben, bevor sie nicht massiv zurückgebaut werden), aber ein unvergleichlich präziseres, das die multikausale Genese der Situation und die menschlichen Dramen mitbedenkt.

Gleichzeitig ist es ein immens lustiges Buch oder besser: ein aberwitziges. Die besten Satiren sind ja die, die wahr sind oder sein könnten, und dieser Roman quillt schier davon über. Bekanntlich ist Israel ein kleines Land mit vielen Parteien, konkurrierenden politischen Strömungen und einer Menge Filz und Nepotismus. Die Siedler, namentlich ihr Chef Otniel, sind äußerst geschickt darin, immer die richtigen Abgeordneten oder Journalisten anzurufen und zu instrumentalisieren, sobald mal wieder ein Räumungs- oder Abrissbefehl droht. Wenn es richtig brenzlig wird, organisieren diese Ultraorthodoxen mit ihren Handys blitzschnell solidarische Flashmobs.

Sie wollen aus den unterschiedlichsten Gründen im Grenzgebiet leben: Die einen sind bitterarm und können sich schlicht nichts anderes leisten, die anderen schätzen das Pioniergefühl in der Wildnis. Einige, nicht alle, pflegen das bekannte politisch-religiöse Sendungsbewusstsein und wollen die Palästinenser verdrängen. Gabi Kupfer, die heimliche Hauptfigur, ein im säkular-sozialistischen Kibbuz großgezogenes Waisenkind, sucht nach einer traumatischen Scheidung hier Rettung in der Einsamkeit und der Hinwendung zu Gott. Er wird von seinem älteren Bruder, dem gänzlich areligiösen Roni, wahrhaft heimgesucht, nachdem der in der Finanzkrise als New Yorker Aktienspekulant die Vermögen seiner Anleger durchgebracht hat und sich nun in Gabis Wohnwagen, mit nichts als einem teuren Anzug auf dem Leib, vor Strafverfolgung verstecken will. Geschäftsmann durch und durch, versucht Roni bald, mit den benachbarten arabischen Olivenbauern ins Geschäft zu kommen, was von Otniel und Co gar nicht gern gesehen wird. Und so vergehen die Jahre. An weit entfernten Gerichtshöfen wird um die Auflösung des Stützpunkts „Ma’alah Chermesch 3“ prozessiert, wechselnde Regierungen haben das Problem der illegalen Siedlungen mal mehr, mal weniger im Blick, doch die Menschen dort, überzeugt von ihrem gottgegebenen Recht an dem Land, kümmern sich sowieso nicht darum. Ein eher zufälliger Artikel in der „Washington Post“ macht Ma’alah Chermesch 3 plötzlich weltbekannt und zum Stein im Schuh des Sicherheitsministers. Wenn er Zeit hat, unternimmt er durchaus Anstrengungen, sich des winzigen Stützpunkts zu entledigen, doch scheitert er ein ums andere Mal.

Es ist der große Roman zum inneren Zustand Israels, den der 1968 geborene Assaf Gavron hier geschrieben hat, eine moderne Sisyphos-Geschichte, mit dem namenlosen Sicherheitsminister und seinen bedauernswerten Soldaten, die die Siedler erst schützen und dann wegräumen sollen, als tragischen Helden. Die Menschen aus Ma’alah Chermesch wiederum, das erkennt man betroffen, sind genau wie überall anders auch, unverfroren, bauernschlau, nur auf den eigenen Vorteil bedacht und flink mit der Opferrolle zur Hand. Wieso wir, fragt einmal eine Siedlerin empört, sind denn drüben bei den Arabern alle Gebäude genehmigt? Wieso Ma’alah Chermesch 3?, fragt einer der Berater den Minister, ich kann dir fünf Stützpunkte nennen, die noch weniger eine rechtliche Grundlage haben!

Im Grunde geht es zu wie in jedem Kleingartenverein, wo sich Menschen ja auch mit allen Mitteln um Grundstücksgrenzen und überhängende Äste streiten und klare Regelverstöße im Nachhinein legalisieren wollen. Nur dass hier, in den seit 1967 von Israel besetzten Gebieten, die eine Partei, die Palästinenser, kaum Rechte und Handhabe hat, während die Unverschämtheiten der anderen, rücksichtslos auch gegenüber den eigenen Leuten im israelischen Kernland, jederzeit einen Flächenbrand auslösen können.

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The Hilltop in El Pais

The hilltop is featured in an article on Israeli literature today, By David Alndete, in the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Spanish version >>>

Portuguese version >>>

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Hilltop Interview on German TV: 3SAT Kulturzeit

Interview on German TV: 3SAT’s Kulturzeit about The Hilltop. by Andrea Kasiske.

Watch video (German) >>>

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Radio interview on ORF – Austrian radio

Interview by Susanne Lettenbauer on Austrian national radio ORF.

Listen (German) >>>

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The Hilltop is on the longlist for the Sapir Award

The Hilltop is one of twelve novels listed on the longlist of the Sapir Prize, Israel’s equivalent of the Booker.

The shortlist will be announced on November 25th, and the winner on February 5th, 2014.

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Review of The Hilltop in Koelner Stadt-Zeitung

Review of the Hilltop in the Koelner Stadt-Zeitung, by Martin Oehlen.

Read review (German) >>>

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New Foot and Mouth Album

The Foot and Mouth announced details of their new album, to be titled Under and released in December 2013. The band will reissue their four previous albums in digital form on bandcamp.com throughput the month of November.

New Facebook page >>>

New Bandcamp page >>>

Website >>>

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TV interview on Hydromania in Italian RAI2

Interview and story on Italian TV’s RAI2, on Hydromania

Watch video >>>

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The Hilltop infoscreen ad in Austrian trains and trainstations

This infoscreen video ad for The Hilltop will appear on screens in trains and train stations across Austria between 18-24 November.

View video >>>

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The Hilltop wins the Bernstein Literary Prize

The Hilltop won the Bernstein Literary Prize for 2013.

From the jury’s decision: “In what was far from an obvious move, Gavron chose to… write a novel of great breadth, attempting to tackle the fundamental questions of the State of Israel… But make no mistake: The contemporary incarnation of the traditional role bravely fulfills the function of literature – that is, the ability to tell our story, allowing us to understand it, consider it and even contradict it. ‘The Hilltop’ is a courageous, skillful attempt to measure up to the tradition of the novel.”

The Bernstein Award is given annually for a book of literary prose and is considered one of most prestigious awards for Israeli fiction. The prize value is 50,000 Shekels.

Story in Haaretz >>>

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Review in Jewniverse of Eating Standing Up

“The Israeli writer Assaf Gavron straddles the deathly funny and deathly serious. In his novel Almost Dead, a man survives multiple suicide-bomb attacks and inadvertently becomes a national hero. His clever and subversive work, Eating Standing Up, focuses on an even more volatile target: falafel stands.”

Jewish website Jewniverse publishes a review by Matthue Roth of Eating Standing Up.

Read full review >>>

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Review of “the Hilltop” in Der Tagesspiegel

“This capacity for unconditional openness and thoughtful, ironic narration, makes him the most interesting political writer in his country”

Review of “The Hilltop” in Der Tagesspiegel, Germany.

Read full review (German) >>>

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Interview in Tages-Anzeiger, Switzerland

Interview about The Hilltop by Claudia Kuhener in Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger (German):

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Readings in the Israeli Literature Festival in Zurich, Switzerland and Hohenems, Austria

I will have two readings this weekend as part of the Israeli Literature Festival in Zurich, Switzerland, and Hohenems, Austria:

Saturday 28 September, 20:00, Literaturhaus Zurich >>>

Sunday 29 September, 16:30, Jewish Museum, Hohenems >>>

Preview in juedische-allgemeine >>>

Article in Austrian website >>>

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Interview in Tages Woch, Switzerland

Interview by Andreas Schneitter for Swiss newspaper Tages Woch.

Read article (German) >>>

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The Hilltop is out in Germany

The Hilltop is out today in German in Luchterhand / Random House.

Page on the publisher’s website: >>>

Page on Amazon: >>>

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Review of the German edition of The Hilltop in qantara.de

“The novel can be read in two very different ways, which, nonetheless, share points of contact. Gavron’s novel could be seen on the one hand as being a social-political tale, and on the other as emphasizing the human and moral intentions of its protagonists (the fate of the problematic brothers). Both directions offer the reader a plethora of brilliantly researched material and grippingly told stories.”

Review of the Auf Femdem Land,the German edition of The Hilltop, by Volker Kaminski in the multi-lingual website qantara.de.

Read full review (English) >>>

Read full review (German) >>>

 

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Review of The Hilltop in Bazler Zeitung

My father always told me, “as long as they spell your name right, it doesn’t matter what they write.”

Well, they didn’t spell my name right, but this is apparently a very good review of The Hilltop in the newspaper of Basle, Switzerland.

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Review of “Hydromania” in the Journal of the University of Padova

Read review (Itaian) >>>

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“Today Costa Rica”: New story in English on jewishfiction.net

 

 

 

 

“Whenever the wind blows—and it usually does—it sounds like ping-pong. The thin, hollow plastic ball hitting the green varnished hardboard table, and the ropes whipping the thick, synthetic, polyester fabric as it waves around in the wind. To him they sound the same, and that’s what he always thinks about in that critical moment when the flag’s life begins: no longer a starched and folded piece of cloth in the corner of a white box, one more shirt in a massive grey closet, but a living, colorful creature that frolics in the wind, representing a foreign country with its own language, its own territory, its own people. That’s what he thinks about—a ping-pong ball’s sharp, high, plastic sound when it drops—while he hangs the flags.”

Today Costa Rica, a short story that appeared in the story collection Sex in the Cemetery in 2000, has a new English translation, published in Jewishfiction.net.

Read story >>>

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Review of Hydromania in WUZ, Italy

“Original and clever, “Hydromania” interprets the fears that we do not even want to admit to ourselves; the books that scare us most, are those that describe an imagined world all too real and possible.”
Review of Hydromania in Italian bookshop website WUZ, by Di Marilia Piccone
Read full review (Italian) >>>
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Interview on Radio24, Italy

Interview by Alessandra Tedesco on the Radio24 radio station in Italy.

Listen to the interview >>>

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Review of Hydromania in La Nazione, Italy

“Gavron is a truly original writer, among the most innovative voices in the Middle eastern literary scene”.

Review of Hydromania in the Italian daily, La Nazione.

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Interview in the Haaretz English edition

“Among the glowing reviews garnered by Assaf Gavron’s latest novel, The Hilltop, earlier this year, was a wry comment that the book had been written virtually ready for translation. Shortly after that review appeared, the Israeli literary community began buzzing with rumors of the six-figure sums Gavron had received for The Hilltop’s translation rights (due out next month in German and in summer 2014 in English), confirming Gavron’s status, as one observer of the local literary scene put it, as ‘the most marketable Israeli writer of his generation’.”

Interview by Anshel Pfeffer in the Haaretz English edition.

Read full article in Haaretz >>>

Read here if you can’t access Haaretz >>>

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Reading in Zurich in September

Here are details of the first event promoting The Hilltop outside Israel – a reading in the literaturhaus in Zurich on 27th September, part of an Israeli literature festival. The following day there will be a reading in the Jewish Museum at Hohenems, Austria. Details for that will follow.

Details (German) >>>

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FoodTrip in Jerusalem

For three weeks, in July-August, a food-truck roamed the streets of Jerusalem, serving varying dishes from changing guests in different neighborhoods of the city, as part of a co-production of the Jerusalem Season of Culture and the chef Asaf Granit from Machneyuda restaurant. I shared the reporting on the FoodTrip events with Hilla Alpert and Hedai Ofayim. Following are my reports:

9.8.13 Sinta Skewers with no guest at the techno parties at The Tower of David >>>

8.8.13 Surprising Stuffed Vegetables with Anat Hoffman at the YMCA >>>

7.8.13  Children’s Meal with Moran Mizrahi at Yemin Moshe >>>

3.8.13 Aubergine in Tomato Sauce with Rubi Rivlin at Denya Square >>>

29.7.13 Atayef with Matan Israeli at the Jaffa Gate >>>

27.7.13 Sausage and Chips Sandwich with Amit Aharonson at the Cinemateque >>> (No English translation)

20.7.13 Brick with Jackie Levy at The Moster >>>

19.7.13 Masala Dosa with Tomer Persico at the market >>>

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Hydromania selected for “20 Summer Reads” by WUZ Italy

WUZ, the biggest Italian Books website, has selected Hydromania as one of its “20 Great Reads for the Summer”.

Read full list >>>

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Review of Hydromania in Mosaico Magazine, Italy

“This is a beautiful discovery of a new book by Assaf Gavron. A great find. It is hard to find in contemporary Israeli literature a work which fits in the dystopian genre, with such a quality of writing and a capacity to hold the suspense for over two hundred pages that made me read it in one breath. This book takes a look at all the fears, obsessions and hopes of Israel, the way Orwell, Dick or Gibson did for the decadence of the Western world.”

Review of Hydromania by Ester Moscati in Italian-Jewish Mosaico Magazine.

Read full review (Italian) >>>

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Event at the Hebrew Literature Festival in Rome

I will be appearing on Tuesday, July 23rd, 21:30 in conversation with Gigi Riva.

The event is part of the International Festival of Hebrew Literature and Culture in Rome, and coincides with the publication of Hydromania in Italian.

Full schedule of the festival (Italian) >>>

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Hydromania is Book of the Day on RAI3 radio “Farenheit” show

 

 

Hydromania was Book of the Day on the literary radio show “Farenheit”, on Italian RAI3 radio station. We went over and made an interview.

Listen online or download podcast (Italian) >>>

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Review Of Hydromania in La Stampa

 

Another great review of the Italian edition of Hydromania in La Stampa.

Written by Elena Loewenthal.

Read full review (Italian) >>>

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Review of Hydromania is Il sole24ore, Italy

 

 

An apparently positive review of Hydromania’s Italian edition, by Michele De Mieri, in Italian daily’s Il sole24ore’s Sunday Culture supplement.

Read the review (Italian) >>>

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Article about Israeli writers in La Repubblica

 

 

An article in La Repubblica, Italy, by Marco mathieu, about the current generation of Israeli writers and about the Israel writers football team, which lost to Italy in the final of the Haifa International Tournament in June, 4:1.

Read article on La Repubblica site (Italian) >>>

See pages in Scribd >>>

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Interview in Italian weekend magazine Il Venerdi

 

Interview about Hydromania and life, by Lara Crino in Italian weekend magazine, Il Venerdi.

Read article (Italian) >>>

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Hydromania published in Italy

Hydromania is published this week in Italy, as Idromania, in La Giuntina publishers.

Publisher’s page >>>

Buy online >>>

Cover design: Ada Rothenberg.

 

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Interview in Swedish Newspaper

Swedish author and journalist Fredrik Ekelund, who was in Israel for the Writers International Football tournament in Haifa in June, interviewed me for Sydsvenskan, the biggest newspaper in the south of Sweden.

Read the article (Swedish) >>>

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The Hilltop in the summer reading list, Haaretz Books Supplement

 

 

The Hilltop features in the Haaretz Books Supplement summer reading supplement:

Settling for more

Liat Elkayam recommends ‘The Hilltop,’ for a holiday in Sinai

As someone who goes on vacation mainly to read books, over the years I’ve developed an array of tactics for selecting my holiday reading − all of which have proven lacking in some way. Worst of all is reading books in the places where they are set. “The Castle” in Prague? The Kafka book is so much more fun. “Under the Tuscan Sun” was way more enjoyable than the pastoral pasta inferno I went to. And unfortunately I just don’t have access to Jay McInerney’s New York. So these days, I opt for the opposite route and aim to read books as far from their point of origin as possible.

For the holiday I yearn for most − a hut in Sinai at Ras-Abu-Whatever − I would gladly, if paradoxically, take along Assaf Gavron’s “The Hilltop.” Firstly, because the cover looks good; and second, because a girl on a beach reading a book and laughing aloud always looks good. And “The Hilltop” is, first and foremost, a very funny novel.

It’s funny that the cruelest act of vengeance that a settler character can think of is to blow up a virtual Second Life mosque by means of Star-of-David-shaped spam. It’s funny when one of the settlers discovers that Matsumata, a Japanese agricultural institute, has cornered the market for authentic olive oil. And it’s even funnier because Matsumata messed up his deal with the Arabs from the neighboring village, which would have enabled him to make a little fortune at their expense as well as at the expense of bourgeois Tel Avivians. It should be obvious by now that this novel is also very political, firing sharp poisoned barbs in all directions.

But what really makes “The Hilltop” ascend to the top of the literary heap is the sharp movement between two antithetical poles of the storytelling craft. On one end you have the meticulously orchestrated analytic and ironic voice, which sends the reader to regions of reflection on the essence of Israeliness. This is the part that is focused on a place − on the fictional settlement Ma’aleh Hermesh C − and it pushes away the reader emotionally while demanding intellectual involvement.

While one hand repels, the other draws you in. For on the other pole you will find the keenest emotion, enough to rip the heart in two. Strewn throughout the book are segments that reveal the past and penetrate the conflicted consciousness of two of the main protagonists − Gabi and Ronny Cooper, the endearing, orphaned, former kibbutznik brothers who become settlers, each for his own fervent reasons.

These flashbacks offer glimpses of hideous, horrid scenes ‏(most chilling of all is a scene in which the young Gabi is punished by anonymous kibbutzniks, who shove loads of maggots, beetles and snails into his mouth‏). I didn’t need Gavron to know that settlers are human beings. What I didn’t know is that this particular reader, a leftist-radical-agnostic girl, could fall in love, contrary to her own good sense, with a protagonist who is despicable by any standard.

And if that’s not a vacation, I don’t know what is.

Liat Elkayam is a television and popular culture analyst for Haaretz.

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Events and signings during Book Week 2013

Events and signing during Book Week:

Wednesday, 5/6/13, 18:00: Signing The Hilltop in the Books in the Attic / Yediot Sfarim area, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.

Thursday, 6/6/13, 19:30: “Extras” in Bookworm bookshop, Maze Street, Tel Aviv. Details  >>>

Sunday, 9/6/13, 20:30: Author event in the regional library Arava (Sapir Center, near Ein Yahav).

Monday, 10/6/13, 21:00: Signing The Hilltop in the Books in the Attic / Yediot Sfarim area, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.

Wednesday, 12/6/13, 20:30: literary panel moderated by Rana Verbin, with Dror Mishani, Noa Yedlin and myself, at Bet Hasofer, 6 Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv.

Thursday, 13/6/13, 21:00: Signing The Hilltop in the Books in the Attic / Yediot Sfarim area, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.

Saturday, 15/6/13, 21:00: Signing The Hilltop in the Books in the Attic / Yediot Sfarim area, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.

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Academic paper on The Hilltop in Sh’ma Journal

“In some Tolstoynian manner, the situation itself is the protagonist of the novel; human agents serve as window dressing. Oddly, the novel describes these settlers in a way similar to Tolstoy’s descriptions of the nobility: as agents of history, with their passions, failings, and actions impacting others in ways that are tragic and momentous.”

“Situational Awareness”, paper by Uri S. Cohen on “The Hilltop”, published in American Jewish academic journal “Sh’ma”, as part of the Guns and Jews issue.

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New digital edition for my debut novel Ice

My debut novel, “ice”, originally published in 1997 and unavailable in print for some years, is now out in a new, enhanced digital edition.

The edition can be downloaded and read on any tablet or smartphone (Hebrew only), and is available at a special launch price of 28 NIS.

More details and buy on indiebook.co.il >>>

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Rights for The Hilltop sold in France and Sweden

Translation rights for The Hilltop were also sold to Natur och Kultur in Sweden after auction, and to publisher of CrocAttack Rivages in France, also after auction.

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Rights for The Hilltop sold to Scribner in the US

North American rights for The Hilltop were sold to Paul Whitlatch at Scribner Books, the excellent publisher of Don Delillo, Stephen King and many others, a division of Simon & Schuster.

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Rights for The Hilltop sold in The Netherlands and Italy

The Hilltop will be published in The Netherlands by Nieuw Amsterdam and in Italy by La Giuntina. This adds to sales to Random House / luchterhand in Germany (to be published September 2013, and Books in the Attic in Israel (published January 2013).

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Interview in French blog

An interview by Alexis Brunet in the French blog La Cause Litteraire.

Read interview >>>

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Story for Haartez Weekend Supplement’s “Small Victories” project

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Tweet on The Hilltop by Anshel Pfeffer, the Haaretz UK correspondent

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