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Haim Be’er

The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry

2004 • 256 pp. 6 x 9"
Jewish Fiction

$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-371-4

$7.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-483-4

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Hardcover is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)

"...written with lyrical grace and sparkling humor. Be'er has created a delightful jewel-box of a world."—Booklist

A classic of modern Israeli literature in English for the first time.

When first published in 1979, Haim Be’er’s Feathers was a critical and commercial success, ushering in a period of great productivity and expansiveness in modern Hebrew literature. Now considered a classic in Israeli fiction the book is finally available to English readers worldwide. In this, his first novel, Be’er portrays the world of a deeply religious community in Jerusalem during the author’s childhood and adolescence in the 1950s and 60s. The novel is filled with vivid portraits of eccentric Jerusalem characters, chief among them the book’s main character, Mordecai Leder, who dreams of founding a utopian colony based on the theories of the nineteenth-century Viennese Jewish thinker Karl Popper-Lynkeus. Similar high-flying dreams inspire the family of the narrator, strict Orthodox Jews with impractical minds and adventurous souls—men such as the narrator’s father, who periodically disappears from home on botanical expeditions meant to prove that the willow tree of Scripture is in fact the Australian eucalyptus.

Experimental in structure and mood, Feathers features kaleidoscopic jumps in time, back and forth in the narrator’s memories from boyhood to adulthood. Its moods swing wildly from hilarity to the macabre, from familial warmth to the loneliness of adolescence. Jerusalem and its inhabitants, as well as the emotional life of the narrator, are splintered and reconstituted, shattered and patched. This fragmentation, combined with a preoccupation with death and physical dissolution and dreamlike flights of imagination, evokes an Israeli magical realism.

Feathers was chosen one of the 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature by the National Yiddish Book Center.

Reviews / Endorsements

"Be'er's superbly textured prose, ably guided by both unstinting honesty and unmistakable love, trusts the past, with its unexpected yields, more than the future, which knows only the certainty of oblivion. Its not inconsiderable art lies in tempting memory to speak and - what may amount to much the same thing - in bestowing on the temporal something of the eternal."The Forward

Always magical, occasionally bizarre, and often funny, this is a precious snapshot of an era. Recommended for all libraries."Library Journal

“Considered a classic in Hebrew literature, this novel--first published in Israel in 1979--is available in English for the first time, in a fine translation by Hillel Halkin. The structure is experimental, with many shifts in time: It's a kind of Israeli magic realism. The story, set in an Orthodox neighborhood in 1950s Jerusalem, is framed by the narrator, looking back as a soldier in a burial unit during the 1973 war.”Women's American ORT

“Haim Be’er resembles the adolescent hero of his novel in wanting to preserve in hard-won modern Israel some of the quirky obstinacy of earlier European-Jewish utopians. As a result, we find in Feathers the quality that Saul Bellow calls characteristically Jewish—‘laughter and trembling so curiously mingled that it is not easy to determine the relations of the two.’”—Ruth R. Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard

“Haim Be’er’s Feathers is a powerful and complex tapestry of the interwoven memories of a boy from an Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. Built on dark humour and pathos, Be’er’s novel provides profound and affectionate characterisations of the men and women who populated the boy’s world—with the emphasis on their obsessions and ecenric idealism. Framing the novel is a portrayal of the war experiences of the grown man, now a soldier serving in a burial unit on the Suez Canal. Hillel Halkin’s much needed translation brilliantly renders the linguistic richness and narrative flow of the original, retaining its changes of mood and colour.”—Dr. Glenda Abramson, University of Oxford

“Haim Be’er offers us a phantasmagorical portrait of Jerusalem. Following in the footsteps of Bruno Schulz, he explores the tension between fanaticism and lunacy, between secularism and evasion, and between what’s tangible and what’s imagined. Feathers is as unsettling as it is rewarding. It should be a treat to fans of Israeli fiction.”—Ilan Stavans, author of On Borrowed Words and editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories


One of the 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature by the National Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA) Commendation

HAIM BE’ER was born in Jerusalem in 1945 to an Orthodox family. He is an editor at Am Oved Publishers. A writer of prose and poetry, he has received several literary awards, including the Bernstein Prize, one of Israel’s most prestigious literary prizes. He has published three novels (including The Pure Element of Time, UPNE 2003), one book of poetry, and one work of non-fiction.

HILLEL HALKIN is a well-known translator of Hebrew and Yiddish. A writer, essayist, and critic, he has published two books and appears frequently in such publications as Commentary and The New Republic.

Fri, 6 Jul 2018 13:11:42 -0500