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And the Rat Laughed

Nava Semel
And The Rat Laughed is a five-part novel dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust and the influence of this harrowing chapter of human history on man’s relationship with God; on the understanding of human nature; on the need to forget in order to survive; and on the need to remember, nonetheless.
Part One is the story of a nameless five-year-old child, as it is told to her granddaughter years later. The child`s parents entrust her to a family of farmers living in a remote, picturesque village. She is hidden in a dark potato cellar for approximately a year, with little food and only a rat for company - and raped repeatedly by the farmers` son. The narrative, which alternately advances and retreats, also presents a metafictional contemplation of the act of storytelling: What is its purpose? Does it really have the power to liberate the storyteller? Does the act of silencing and obliteration transform memory into an independent entity, governed by memory - "the story`s legal offspring"?
Part Two is the granddaughter`s diary, which sheds more light on the survivor`s story as well as on the title of the novel. The rat, according to the alternative myth of creation related by the grandmother, demanded that God grant him the gift of laughter, but soon came to realize God`s most miserable mistake: "... in a world where children must be hidden ...chaos is not simply an incidental "bug," but a complete systems breakdown. Such a world should be destroyed from its foundations and rebuilt from the start."
Part Three, a collection of poems ostensibly written by the survivor child, is followed by a research report (Part Four) written in the year 2099 by an anthropologist bent on uncovering the origins of the widespread "Girl and Rat" myth. This chapter, which defines myth as "encrypted historical memory," is also a reflection on the nature of memory - its persistent presence in man`s consciousness; its scarring effects; and the possibility of subsequent hope: "A historical scar is indeed no guarantee that horrific events will not repeat themselves; the existence of memory can, nevertheless, grant some hope." Part Five, the novel`s final chapter, is the diary of the priest who takes the child in. In an attempt to restore her speech, her hope and her faith in God and mankind, he discovers that he has lost his own.

A world that is becoming all too unreal to all too many people is here recaptured, brought to the light, through a process that everyone can empathize with and understand.
Author Leslie Epstein

A powerful and deeply arresting novel.
Australia Jewish News

An exquisitely wrought meditation… integrating story, legend, poetry, dream, science fiction and diary.
Forward (USA)

One of the most interesting new books.

Semel And the Rat Laughed
Title And the Rat Laughed
Author’s Last Name Semel
Author's First Name Nava
Language(s) English, German, Italian, Romanian
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Yedioth Ahronoth
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2001
No. Pages 249 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Tzchok Shel Achbarosh
Representation Represented by ITHL


German: Mannheim, Persona, 2007
English: Victoria, Austr., Hybrid, 2008
Italian: Rome, Atmosphere Libri, 2012
Romanian: Bucharest, Hasefer, 2014
Congratulations to Zeruya Shalev and Shifra Horn for receiving the 2017 Adei Wizo Prize.

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award! The books on the longlist are selected by 400 libraries worldwide. Titles are nominated on the basis of ‘high literary merit’ as determined by the nominating library.
The second edition of the Letters of Israel festival will take place in Paris from September 8 to 18, 2017
After the success of its first edition, the Lettres d'Israël festival is gaining momentum, with an enriched program: meetings, conversations, readings , Theater, major authors and discoveries. Zeruya Shalev, Orly Castel-bloom, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Iris Argaman, and many more will participate. Click here for the full program:
Call for application: Artists in Residence Programme in Austria. Please note the deadline: September 18th, 2017.
In co-operation with KulturKontakt Austria, the Austrian Federal Chancellery makes available 50 residencies to visual artists / art photographers / composers / video and media artists / writers / literary translators and arts and cultural educators in Vienna and Salzburg for the year 2018. For more details:
Yizhak Mayer: "Meet the Author" Event
Ambassador Yizhak Mayer, author of the moving book “Silent Letter” will hold a “meet the author” event in Netanya. For further info about the event: And for more details about the title click here:
ITHL director on Grossman's win
"Grossman winning is not only his own achievement, but the achievement of the Hebrew literature as a whole", - Nilli Cohen on the first Hebrew author to receive Man Booker International Prize. Click here for the full article in Hebrew.
Chana Bloch dies at 77
Chana Bloch, a revered poet and translator from Hebrew and Yiddish, has sadly passed away earlier this month. Among her many remarkable achievements is the wonderful translation of a collection of poems by Dahlia Ravikovitch​ (W. W. Norton & Company). Chana will be greatly missed.
Yitzchak Mayer's personal website goes live
English edition of Yitzchak Mayer's amazing "Silent Letter" is about to come out with Mosaic Press. Learn more about the author's incredible life story on his brand new website.
Dayan on feminism and writing
Following the release of "Transitions" in English, Yael Dayan talks to Lilith Magazine about her past aspirations and present pursuits. Click here to read the full interview.
Gundar-Goshen's Op-Ed for Time
To mark the US publication of "Waking Lions" Ayelet Gundar-Goshen talks about the refugee crisis, internal walls and people behind them in the op-ed for Time. Click here to read the article.
MHL - New webzine starting soon!