Review of Tel Aviv Noir in Publishers Weekly

Review of Tel Aviv Noir forthcoming in the August 25 issue of Publishers Weekly:

Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion famously stated, “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew.” That “normality” is certainly evident in the 14 stories in this routine Akashic anthology, which feature murderers, hookers, pimps, drug dealers, and mobsters, both Jewish and Arab, though it’s not always clear how they fit the noir label. Some selections could have been transplanted from Tel Aviv to other cities with only minor changes—and none deals with politics or the Palestinian situation. The standouts are Gai Ad’s “The Expendables” and Antonio Ungar’s “Said the Good.” James M. Cain would recognize the setup of Ad’s story, in which the life of an attractive widow takes a violent turn after her husband’s cancer-related death leaves her at loose ends. Ungar’s tale of warring organized crime factions would certainly make Ben-Gurion feel , for better or worse, that Israel is now normal. (Oct.)

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Starred review for Tel Aviv Noir in Library Journal

Forthcoming in the September issue of Library Journal:

Since the start, Akashic’s short story series has been a classy enterprise, specializing in crime noir set in specific locations. The 66th volume may be the very best in a generally solid series. Edited by noted Israeli writers Keret (Suddenly, A Knock at the Door) and Gavron (Almost Dead), this collection runs the gamut from Lavie Tidhar’s fantasy of a detective who works in parallel worlds (“The Time-Slip Detective”) to Matan Hermoni’s “Women” about a writer who inherits a ghost and Deakla Keydar’s touching story (“Slow Cooking”) of an abandoned wife who finds purpose aiding African refugees who are worse off than she is. Shimon Adaf’s gnomic contribution, “My Father’s Kingdom,” is only nominally a detective tale. In it, a student becomes obsessed with the esoteric poems of a poet who committed suicide. It reads like Franz Kafka filtered through Jorge Louis Borges. Antonio Ungar’s “Säid the Good” tells a remorselessly unsentimental account of star-crossed lovers, vengeance, and death, and in the most conventional offering, Assaf Gavron’s “Center,” a PI tracks down a missing person by following the trail of his severed parts. VERDICT This collection escapes the limits of formula fiction and sets the bar high for subsequent “Noir” offerings. The genre is hot, Tel Aviv is exotic, and this volume is outstanding. What’s not to like? [Scribner is publishing Gavron’s Bernstein Award–winning The Hilltop in October.—Ed.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

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Tweet about the Hilltop from Belgium

Belgian TV journalist Patrick van Gompel with a nice tweet on The Hilltop

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Review of The Hilltop in NRC-Handelsblad, Holland

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Tel Aviv Noir published in Hebrew

Tel Aviv Noir, an anthology of Noir stories set in Tel Aviv, by 14 writers, co-edited by Etgar Keret and myself, was published in Hebrew by Kinneret-Zmora-Bitan. The English edition will be published in October.

Read about it on the Akashic website (English) >>>

Buy (Hebrew) >>>

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Interview in The Ilanot Review

“I tend to do a lot of research, probably too much. As someone who lives in Tel Aviv and who is secular, I needed to at least connect to the place, to the people and to the synagogue. I needed to see how people live.”

Interview in the summer 2014 issue of Ilanot Review, The Bar Ilan University English department quarterly. Interview by Nadia Jacobson.

Read article >>>

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Piece on Gaza etc., published in Sweden, Italy, Holland, Germany and Greece

My piece on Gaza and the current situation was published in newspapers in Sweden, Italy, Holland and Germany. Read the article in:

Dagens Nyheter (Swedish) >>>

La Republica (Italian) >>>

NRC Handelsblad (Dutch) >>>

Die Zeit (German) >>>

To vima (Greek) >>>

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On current affairs in German newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger

A few points about the current Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and Tel Aviv, published in German newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger. Interview by Martin Oehlen

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Interview in Giornale di Brescia

Interview by Francesco Mannoni, published in Italian newspaper Giornale di Brescia.

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The Hilltop out in Holland

The Hilltop was published in Dutch translation by publisher Nieuw Amsterdam.

The book’s page on the publisher’s website >>>

Online shop >>>

Sample of first chapters and info (Dutch) >>>

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Interview in the Jerusalem Report

“America has always fascinated me, and I mean the heart of America not just New York or L.A.”

An interview about The Hilltop (which WAS on the bestsellers lists despite what is claimed there…), The Jerusalem Book Fair and more by Judith Sudilovsky published in the Jerusalem Report.

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Reviews of Croc Attack in Greek newspapers

Here is a review from Greek newspaper, KATHIMERINI.

Read review (Greek) >>>

And here’s another review published in Greece earlier this month (June 3rd), from the local newspaper of Arta town.

Read review (Greek) >>>

And another (Greek) >>>

And another (Greek) >>>



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Festival in Sardinia

I presented my novel Hydromania in the Leggendro Metropolitano Festival in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

Details and program (Italian) >>>

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Conversation with Australian writer Nam Le in Jerusalem

Good conversation with Australian author Nam Le in the 4th International Writers Festival in Jerusalem today, about his book, The Boat, the expectations from writers and how to defy them, moving and writing around the world, etc.

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Article about Croc Attack in Greek newspaper

An article about Croc Attack in big Greek newspaper ELEFTHEROTYPIA, including text by the successful Greek writer Isidoros Zourgos.


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Article on Narrative4 in Haaretz English

“The acclaimed Israeli author found himself paired with U.S. author Terry Tempest Williams for a story exchange. Someone tells you a personal tale; you tell one in return; then you retell each other’s stories to the group, Gavron explains.”

The story of Narrative4 and my involvement in it is poublished by Alona Farber in Haaretz English edition.

Read full article >>>

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Interview in Greek newspaper

New interview in Greek newspaper, for the Greek edition of Croc Attack.

Read review (Greek) >>>

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Photo exhibition in New York

This photo of me is part of an authors portraits exhibition starting in New York next week, The Last Line, with photos by German photographer Heike Steinweg. Each author represented also contributed a short text relating to the concept of “the last line”.

More details on exhibition >>>


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Bernstein Prize jury arguments for awarding The Hilltop

This is the text from the jury of the Bernstein Prize 2013, explaining why they have awarded the prize to The Hilltop:

Assaf Gavron has written one of the most important and interesting books of recent years. The Hilltop is Gavron’s fifth novel and his most major. In his unique way, Gavron has placed himself in the heart of the canonic Hebrew literature by creating a wide-ranging novel, which seeks to confront the fundamental questions of the State of Israel. His work deals in a deeply literary manner with the human face of these questions. In other words, this is a novel of great ideas. He uses a contemporary form – ironic, segmented, clip-like, seemingly “flat” and postmodern – to play the traditional role of the Israeli observer. But make no mistake: the current form of this traditional approach is a bold literary move. It allows literature to tell “our” story and in doing so lets us understand it, contemplate it, and even question it.

The “situation”, the one in which we are living, and about which we complain, is in a way the protagonist of the novel, and this situation is conveyed through the story of two orphan brothers who find themselves in an illegal settlement on a hilltop in the West Bank, Maale Chermesh C. The plot itself is meticulously constructed and is the fruit of the author’s exceptional control of the art of storytelling. The prologue (The Fields) is truly a tour-de-force of plot structuring. The story gets under the skins of the many varied characters, and manages to explain them to us, thereby explaining something in ourselves. At the same time he has created an impressively tight plot, which has various genre sources, and together they construct a tight framework that reveals several worlds, without losing the narrative core. Gavron’s technical skill is clear, and it serves a more interesting and varied storytelling perception than it seems at first glance, or when reading only parts of the book.

The novel therefore cannot be dismantled into parts, and this in itself is a kind of statement that also relates to the question of language. The novel’s language is complex, self-conscious and quite ironic. It is somewhat similar to the way that the hilltop and its residents are ultimately depicted from the outside. Gavron’s language forcibly refuses to be tempted by the poetry of the Hebrew language with its link to the Bible. Possibly this is a political observation. Hebrew, when you strip it from Messianism—t hat is from religious yearning—is quite a flat language. The use Gavron makes of this Hebrew, especially in the first part, could suggest that the author does not write “prettily”, but the later parts of the book and the ironic use of rich and virtuosic language clarify that we are dealing with what is left of the language. Not incidentally the Hebrew sounds at times almost like English, in the rhythm and succinctness of the sentences. If there is something sad in the linguistic plot, then this is one of the deepest and most interesting points of the book; it relates to the true relations between Hebrew and Israeliness, and its religious-messianic core.

The Hilltop examines reality with literary tools, and the story-centered thinking explains the historical reality. The mechanism that Gavron discovers and describes is fascinating. The irony is central and touches all the characters and all the aspects of the story – those on the hilltop, those protesting against it, those who live at its foot and those who ignore its existence. The various aspects of the story are not at all those we know from day-to-day politics. They deal with the fundamental questions of living in such a place, with its complicated and nuanced relations with the Arab inhabitants, and with its link to the Jewish people and their important community in America. For this reason America has such a major role in the novel. Both brothers spend long defining periods there, one of them even takes part in the financial collapse—and in fact runs away to the hilltop where his born-again religious brother lives. The support of American Jews for the settlement and their one-dimensional perception of its reality, are part of the narrative. There is something Tolstoyan in this interpretation, in the way it puts “the situation” at the center. For its part, “the situation” imbues the characters’ human weaknesses with historical dimensions, as if the brothers Kupper-Nehushtan were aristocrats in the time of the Graff.

To sum up, The Hilltop is a bold and capable attempt to confront the tradition of the novel. Gavron succeeds exceptionally well by writing a novel, which is a contemporary and profound development of the form, and not only in terms of Hebrew literature. In judging the book on these terms, we find a tremendous struggle with the pioneer-period novels and with the cultural and literary tradition that places the kibbutz and the settlement at the center. The connection between the historic ideals of the Labor party and the settlement enterprise, and the understanding of the links between motivation, action and form, are ultimately an artistic and cultural achievement, because the novel is not simplistic and does not lead to simplistic conclusions. True, this is an observation of the hilltop from the plain, meaning from Tel Aviv, but Tel Aviv is also reflected in the hilltop, and neither would find in the novel what it might think to find in itself.

For these reasons we have decided to award Assaf Gavron with the Bernstein Prize.

Prof. Niza Ben-Dov

Prof. Hillel Weiss

Dr. Uri Cohen

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Reading in Berlin Literaturhaus

Reading and discussing The Hilltop in the literaturhaus tonight, aspart of the German-Israeli literatue days 2014 in Berlin. With German author Martin Schauble, moderated by Arne Schneider.

Comment and photo by German author Norbert Kron:

ssaf Gavron bei den “Deutsch-Israelischen Literaturtagen” von Böll-Stiftung & Goethe-Institut: äußerst intensiver Abend mit ihm und Martin Schäuble im Literaturhaus in der Fasanenstraße, super moderiert von Arne Schneider. Wie sehr sich die religiösen Hardliner auf beiden Seiten des Nahostkonflikts ähneln, kam beim Dialog der vorgestellten Büchern brillant heraus…

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Interview about cultural boycott on German radio

Short piece on the cultural boycott of Israel by German radio journalist Ruth Kinet.

Listen (German) >>>

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Reading in Stuttgart

Reading and discussion on The Hilltop in the beautiful new library in Stuttgart tonight.

Moderator: Anat Feinberg, professor of Hebrew fiction at Heidelberg University.

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Story of a foreskin – opinion piece on circumcision for Berliner Zeitung

An opinion piece on circumcision for German newspaper, Berliner Zeitung.

Written in preview to my appearance in the German-Israeli Literature Days in Berlin Literaturhaus on April 10th. The theme of the festival is religion and belief.

Read full article (German) >>>

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Review of Croc Attack in People Magazine, Greece

Croc Attack got 4 stars in this review in the Greek edition of People Magazine, written by Tina Mandilara.

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On The Hilltop in Yediot Achronot

Critic Arik Glasner, in his article about a new phenomenon he identifies of “cosmopolitan Hebrew fiction, discusses The Hilltop. Published in Yediot Achronot:

“To the phenomenon of cosmopolitan Hebrew literature I would like to add another significant novel related to it, even if in a subterranean way: Assaf Gavron’s The Hilltop, one of the most important Israeli novels of recent years. On the face of it, eyebrows may be raised: what does this Kishon-like novel, dealing with an illegal settlement in the West Bank, with all this so-local mayhem of settlers, the military, politics, lefties, and Palestinians – have to do with anything cosmopolitan?

And yet, the deep structure of this novel is in my eyes entirely American. Gavron has taken the theme of “The Frontier”, a central theme in American culture, and adapted it to the Israeli reality. The Frontier thesis, which was first formulated into the canon by American historian Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893, emphasizes the significance of the frontier, which is moving slowly westward, to the American existence. America, claims this thesis, is conducting a complex relationship of attraction to the violent, uncultured, anarchic frontier and what lies beyond it, “the wild west”.

Gavron is one of the most American of our authors – the translator of Philip Roth and David Foster Wallace, for example – and when reading The Hilltop, it is clear that what attracted him to this subject is exactly this anarchic frontier way of life of an illegal settlement on the edge of the Judean desert. The same wild experience is what attracts the settlers themselves to the hilltop, as well as born-again Jews who are fed up with what they see as the too-bourgeois and too-organized Israel.  Moreover the cosmopolitan author Gavron sympathizes with this view. Thus an Israeli novel, which is actually an American-Israeli novel, is written, and it belongs, even if in a less obvious way, to this new trend of “Cosmopolitan Hebrew Literature”.”

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Hydromania shortlisted for prize in Italy

Hydromania is shortlisted for the ADEI WIZO prize, in the “Young Readers” category.

It is competing against an Aharon Apelfeld novel.

The winner will be chosen by teenagers from 15 high schools around Italy in May.

Story on ADEI WIZO website (Italian) >>>

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The Mouth and Foot mentioned in The Wire Magazine, UK

The Mouth and foot are mentioned in an article about the tel Aviv alternative music scene, as selected by musician Maya Dunitz:

Mouth And Foot are a cult group that play lo-fi experimental pop. They have released a record every six years since 1989, and live performances are rare. The trio comprises Ohad Fishof (now working as a choreographer and artist), guitarist Ram Orion and novelist Assaf Gavron. It’s essentially a concept group, using mainly 80s Casio keyboards, and it keeps on being surprisingly fresh. Their last record was released by the talented Uganda organisation, Itamar Weiner and Uri Crystal, who run a famous record and comics store/cutting-edge venue, hosting local and international music. Uganda also recently started a vinyl label with very interesting releases.

Read full article >>>

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Copyright free image

This image can be used for free by anyone. Please credit Fana Feng.

Click on image for full resolution.

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Review of The Hilltop – German website

This is a review of The Hilltop In German website It written by Maria Hummitzsch, who also moderated my reading event in Leipzig in November 2013.

Read review >>>

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Almost Dead out in Bulgarian

The Bulgarian translation of Almost Dead is out, published by Enthusiast this week.

Here’s the book page on Enthusiast’s website >>>

Buy it here >>>

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Interview in Times of Israel

Interview in the Times of Israel, on The Hilltop, translations and more. Written by Jessica Steinberg.

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Copyright-free photos by Howard Romero

New photos, taken January 2014 in the Vermont Studio Center.

The photos are free to use, but please credit the photographer: Howard Romero.

For full resolution, click on the photo.








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Review and interview of The Hilltop in Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung

Review and interview on The Hilltop by Marko Martin in the most important newspaper in Switzerland, Neue Zuercher Zeitung.

Read review (German) >>>

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Opinion piece on the Anelka Salute, in Corriere Della Sera

An opinion piece I wrote for the Corriere Della Sera daily newspaper in Italy, about footballer Nicolas Anelka’s racist salute in a football match in the English Premier League.

Read the article (Italian) >>>

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Interview on Hydromania in Italian newspaper il Giornale

An interview on Hydromania by Boris Solazzo in Italian newspaper il Giornale.

Read article (Italian) >>>

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Interview and review of The Hilltop in n-tv, Germany

Interview and review of the hilltop, by Samira Lazarovic, for German n-tv website.

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Mouth & Foot Interview in Haaretz, for the release of new album, Under

Interview in Haaretz cultural section, Gallery, by Moshe Kutner.

Read the article (Hebrew) >>>

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Interview about The Hilltop in Deutsche Welle, Germany

Interview and article in the Deutsche Welle website, by Andrea Kasiske.

This is the text version of the TV story broadcast on 3SAT Kulturzeit last month.

Read the article (German) >>>

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Croc Attack in Holiday recommendation list by leading Greek newspaper

Croc Attack is in the list of 100 recommended readings for the holiday season by the leading Greek newspaper Tovima. The book is one of 8 books on the “political” section, alongside Mario Vargas Llosa and E.L. Doctorow.

Read the article (Greek) >>>

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Interview about Croc Attack in Omogeneia, Greece

Interview in Greek newspaper.

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Interview about Croc Attack in LIFO Magazine, Greece

Interview about the Greek edition of Croc Attack in LIFO Magazine, Greece.

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Review of Croc Attack in Greek e-magazine

Here’s a review of Croc Attack in Greek e-magazine Diastixo.

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Selected by JO LEE Magazine, Canada, as one of 16 “World’s Top Authors”

Canadian magazine JO LEE selected 16 World’s Top Authors from countries around the world, and I am the Israeli selection.

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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


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:

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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