Francesca is in Tel Aviv on a business trip, and in honor of her visit and her hosts and the pleasant weather, she will recommend five very different books by the Israeli writers! (Francesca thanks our internet friend Sarah for recommending these books to the Francesca, who enjoyed them very much.)
First we start with the Amos Oz and his memoir of life in Jerusalem in the 1940’s and 50’s, A Tale of Love and Darkness. His autobiographical account traces his family history from Ukraine to Palestine, through World War II and the 1948 War for Independence, Oz’s mother’s suicide when he was 12, and his decision to leave Jerusalem for the fresh air and freedom on a kibbutz. Oz was born in 1939, and the book weaves the story of his life’s beginnings with the beginnings of his nascent country. It is a stark and lovely work.
Francesca loves the exquisite and painful beauty of the poems by Yehuda Amichai and sincerely wishes she could read them in the original Hebrew. But when a translation must suffice, one turns to The Selected Poetry Of Yehuda Amichai, Newly Revised and Expanded edition.
Moving along chronologically, we come to an opportunity to include a female voice. Savyon Liebrecht enjoyed her heyday as a short-story writer in the 1980’s, but one can still purchase this nice collection of some of her best work from that period: Apples from the Desert: Selected Stories . The stories are not subtle, but Francesca finds that in their exploration of family conflicts (especially between mothers and daughters, and mothers and daughters-in-law), sexuality, and relationships between men and women, Jews and Arabs, the stories contain perspectives that can only be provided by a woman.
In the “easy reading” category is David Grossman’s The Zig Zag Kid. This is a coming-of-age story frequently taught in Israeli junior high schools; readers of Manolo for the Big Girl can finish this amusing story on a cozy Saturday afternoon in bed with hot cocoa. If you are looking for any deep messages about Israeli or Jewish culture or the regional conflict, you will be disappointed. Rather, this is a madcap tale of a bar-mitzvah boy, the son of a police officer, who is whisked away by a seasoned criminal to steal the near-mythical purple scarf of a famous actress. Along the way, the title character must decide where his allegiance lies: With his straight-laced police-officer father? or with his new criminal mentor? He goes back and forth, trying to reconcile the warring forces within himself (hence the idea that he “zig zags”). The story is crazy and a bit surreal, and Francesca is convinced that the title character has ADHD. The descriptions of his heroic efforts to control himself are funny and moving. Come to think of it, this book would be a great gift for a kid with ADHD, or a the parent of someone with ADHD.
Coming up to more recent years, the most “in” writer among Israel’s younger generation of literati is Etgar Keret, whose warped, somewhat bizarre, but frequently thought-provoking short stories have made Francesca both scratch her head sometimes and nod knowingly at others. Here is his first book: The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories.