Christopher Owens 🔖The recent controversy surrounding Sally Rooney has been interesting.


 Some have lamented it as an example of how even light fiction has become a weapon in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Some fully supported her decision, citing South Africa as an example of how a boycott can be successful. Some accused her of anti-Semitism, asking whether she would allow her novel to be translated into Mandarin.

Obviously, this being Twitter, rational and nuanced debate (largely) went out the window in favour of the stances we are all familiar with. What I did notice, however, was a train of thought that seemed to (inadvertently) run through both sides that suggested that the subject of Palestine was a taboo subject in Israeli society, as if there was tacit agreement among the population that it was a problem that could only be dealt with through violence.

This, of course, is a ridiculous notion. This subject is analysed, discussed and dissected throughout the country whether it be in academia, politics or on the street. Itai Kuskus, frontman of Tel Aviv hardcore band Jarada, has said that:

The Israel/Palestine climate is always there. I believe every Israeli hangs around with this lump in their back …We know the gravity and the importance of these matters, and we’re the first reaching out to our buddies over the fence, at least as much as we can as private individuals against a monstrous system.

Two other private individuals include Lavie Tidhar and Shimon Adaf.

Both born in Israel, although in differing circumstances (Tidhar grew up in a northern kibbutz while Adaf was raised in Sderot, not far from Gaza), they nonetheless view Israeli society through a critical eye and write fiction.

Art and War serves as a conversation/debate/essay between the two of them. Discussing everything from genre fiction, to why we write and how our subjects contribute to the world around us (as well as Israeli society, Palestine, secular and religious Jewish culture/history) it is a fascinating read. It’s a joy to read how these friends (clearly in awe of each other’s work) bounce off each other, disagree and take subjects into areas one would never consider.

As an example, when talking about his novel One Mile and Two Days Before Sunset, Adaf writes that the protagonist:

…was able to avoid moral issues. He was quite cunning about it – he defines himself as a ‘clerk of small human sins’…It wasn’t that he waved away morality, just that he reduced it to cases in which taking a moral standpoint does not undermine his convictions about justice…What do you do with a clever guy who solves the mystery, finds the culprit, but refuses to act upon his knowledge?

Extra kudos goes to Tidhar celebrating marginal literature like:

Zionist romance chapbooks from the 1930’s. Detective fiction. Erotica…it was never meant to last…And I’m fascinated by it. Because it wasn’t important literature…it had a certain freedom, even a certain honesty…

Anyone who has read a Jim Thompson novel will attest to the truth in this statement.

Fans of the art of writing will find much to explore in this book, likewise those with an interest in Middle Eastern politics will have a field day with the nuanced discussion around Israeli culture. All of these strands of thought are brought together in two short stories written by the authors which not only explores the violence around them but also questions how successful the medium of writing is in exploring this topic.

Sally Rooney should read this.

Shimon Adaf and Lavie Tidhar, 2016, Art and War: Poetry, Pulp and Politics in Israeli Fiction. Repeater Books. ISBN-13: 978-1910924044

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

Art And War: Poetry, Pulp And Politics In Israeli Fiction

Christopher Owens 🔖The recent controversy surrounding Sally Rooney has been interesting.


 Some have lamented it as an example of how even light fiction has become a weapon in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Some fully supported her decision, citing South Africa as an example of how a boycott can be successful. Some accused her of anti-Semitism, asking whether she would allow her novel to be translated into Mandarin.

Obviously, this being Twitter, rational and nuanced debate (largely) went out the window in favour of the stances we are all familiar with. What I did notice, however, was a train of thought that seemed to (inadvertently) run through both sides that suggested that the subject of Palestine was a taboo subject in Israeli society, as if there was tacit agreement among the population that it was a problem that could only be dealt with through violence.

This, of course, is a ridiculous notion. This subject is analysed, discussed and dissected throughout the country whether it be in academia, politics or on the street. Itai Kuskus, frontman of Tel Aviv hardcore band Jarada, has said that:

The Israel/Palestine climate is always there. I believe every Israeli hangs around with this lump in their back …We know the gravity and the importance of these matters, and we’re the first reaching out to our buddies over the fence, at least as much as we can as private individuals against a monstrous system.

Two other private individuals include Lavie Tidhar and Shimon Adaf.

Both born in Israel, although in differing circumstances (Tidhar grew up in a northern kibbutz while Adaf was raised in Sderot, not far from Gaza), they nonetheless view Israeli society through a critical eye and write fiction.

Art and War serves as a conversation/debate/essay between the two of them. Discussing everything from genre fiction, to why we write and how our subjects contribute to the world around us (as well as Israeli society, Palestine, secular and religious Jewish culture/history) it is a fascinating read. It’s a joy to read how these friends (clearly in awe of each other’s work) bounce off each other, disagree and take subjects into areas one would never consider.

As an example, when talking about his novel One Mile and Two Days Before Sunset, Adaf writes that the protagonist:

…was able to avoid moral issues. He was quite cunning about it – he defines himself as a ‘clerk of small human sins’…It wasn’t that he waved away morality, just that he reduced it to cases in which taking a moral standpoint does not undermine his convictions about justice…What do you do with a clever guy who solves the mystery, finds the culprit, but refuses to act upon his knowledge?

Extra kudos goes to Tidhar celebrating marginal literature like:

Zionist romance chapbooks from the 1930’s. Detective fiction. Erotica…it was never meant to last…And I’m fascinated by it. Because it wasn’t important literature…it had a certain freedom, even a certain honesty…

Anyone who has read a Jim Thompson novel will attest to the truth in this statement.

Fans of the art of writing will find much to explore in this book, likewise those with an interest in Middle Eastern politics will have a field day with the nuanced discussion around Israeli culture. All of these strands of thought are brought together in two short stories written by the authors which not only explores the violence around them but also questions how successful the medium of writing is in exploring this topic.

Sally Rooney should read this.

Shimon Adaf and Lavie Tidhar, 2016, Art and War: Poetry, Pulp and Politics in Israeli Fiction. Repeater Books. ISBN-13: 978-1910924044

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

2 comments:

  1. I’ve read one of her books. If she wants to punish Israel she should definitely have it translated to Hebrew.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have never read her at all but she certainly drew attention to an important matter.
    I wonder when persuasion in boycotting of any type becomes coercion.
    I am sure there are those who will not want others to watch Israeli dramas or read Israeli literature.
    Personally, I would never abide by being told there was something I could not read.

    ReplyDelete