These four stories, first published
between 1956 and 1962, are about children growing up in disadvantaged south Tel
Aviv during the World War II. In the title story, a boy’s everyday trials in
Tel Aviv of the early 40s―parents fussing over his homework and the state of
his fingernails―are increasingly interrupted by radio bulletins charting the
Germans' ravages across Europe. The boy fuses the chaos of the world into a
blurred personal mythology staked to gothic reality by one glaring eye:
"In the attic of Salomon's house lived an owl which was a thousand years
old and which put the curse of death on anyone who dared approach it."
Here, as in the rest of this fine
collection, the child's perspective is beautifully captured. His Innocent,
unblinking gaze apprehends the world and claims from its everyday stories his
own unassailable knowledge. The enchanted hue imparted by the Eastern-Mizrahi residents
of the neighbourhood also determines their speech, their customs and spiritual
world through their folklore and culture.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
Aloni has succeeded in turning the materials of life in South Tel Aviv and his childhood stories into urban legends … The fantastic here breaks out of the borders of the local and makes it universal … Aloni is one of the fathers of the fantastic-lyrical story in Hebrew literature. The level of design, the powers of observation, and the rare ability to turn reality into fable are what give him a special place in Hebrew literature … Aloni’s stories seem to me to have had a decisive influence on the stories of Yaakov Shabtai.
Gershon Shaked, Haaretz
The subjective lyric
tone, which can pause over experiences of an instant and through their intensity
turn trivia of a growing child's life into the center of a gripping narrative
confession … The four stories are
delightful reading for anyone whose ear is still attuned to the lyrical story
Chaim Shoham, Maariv; Modern Hebrew Literature
Aloni’s stories, which
bear the stamp of fantasy, are close to those of Günter Grass, Bulgakov and
Marques … The central sensual experience in the stories is a refreshing
vitality, free of apologetics or soul-scrabbling and thanks to that, the
statute of limitations does not apply to these stories … The four stories make
up a kind of coming of age novel, remarkable for its narrow focus and the
richness of its description of experiences.
Gila Ramraz-Rauch, Davar
There is a great abundance
of symbols in the stories, a wealth of well-told experiences, a richness that
makes their author a superb story-teller, highly imaginative and powerful.
Hillel Barzel, Moznaim
It is not every day that
a book appears which is a joy both to the soul and to the eyes, such as The
Owl by Nissim Aloni. In each of the four stories in the collection,
authenticity is evident. Only someone who has lived these things and felt their
power could describe them with such clarity and with feeling that brims with
musicality … There are passages that sound like poetry … The atmosphere is
dynamic and vibrant … Even the spoken language becomes a unique kind of poetic
language, and this is after all the author’s own particular language … Everyday
spoken language becomes a joy.
Ilana Kedmi, Iton 77
In the prose of The
Owl Nissim Aloni is revealed at his creative best … The localism, with its
smells and sounds, allows Aloni a colorfulness of description and atmosphere … The
yearning for places and people which have in them something of the wonderful,
well intermixed with the narrative texture of a familiar place and
neighborhood, ensures intriguing results … In these stories, as in the best of
modern Hebrew fiction, the narrative achievement lies in the struggle of the individual
for the formation of his personal awareness.
Giora Leshem, Moznayim
The stories in The Owl
worked magic on me. Like walking in a circus hall of mirrors; everything is
also another thing … Each one of the elements in the plot ties in with the
weave of the story and all together they form a complete and accurate
pattern … Nissim Aloni’s quest in search
of his identity as a story teller and his solution are a prototype for the
quest of Israeli literature for its own image since the 1940s.
Shin Shifra, Moznayim
Wonderful things happen
to the Hebrew language in this book, and the characters surrounding the boy are
painted in the colors of war, base desires, insanity and death, without ceasing
to be very real underneath the makeup.
Galit Raved, Ha'ir
The Owl by Nissim
Aloni represents the best of Israeli literature … Aloni became the Israeli
Gabriel Garcia Marques even before we knew of Marques … Four marvelous stories
of childhood … which stand right at the summit of Israeli literature … The narrative
miracle occurs in the actual ability to astonishingly recreate the mindset of
what can be defined as the planet of childhood. This is what Aloni has captured
with unparalleled genius, while stretching the language to the fullest possible
Menahem Ben, Iton 77; Maariv
The four wondrous stories
by Nissim Aloni, known also as a novella titled The Owl, have come out
once again … The very republication of this marvelous novella is a cause for celebration
and is worthy of admiration … The stories are superbly polished – and, in fact
, why not say it, perfect.
Uri Hollander, Haaretz
The republication of this
book is a nice gesture, and from my point of view, a happy day for Hebrew
literature. This slim collection of stories is a real little treasury of “belles
lettres” that are truly “belles”. Each sentence in it is built with
such precision, like poetry, with a great deal of linguistic richness and
poetic ability … Four stories that combine to form an enchanting coming of age
novella … A chance to reaffirm that Aloni is not only one of our greatest
playwrights but also a great author. A book that is pure pleasure: Take it to
bed, and let it enter your dreams.
Yael Israel, Maariv NRG; Literary blog
The most powerful thing
that these stories do is that they manage to take the reader into a faraway
childhood world in which memories of a young Tel Aviv and the spell-binding
echoes of the world war combine into a legendary-mythological weave.
Hagar Yanai, Globes
The four parts of the
book are one of the finest prose works of Hebrew literature, and when reading
them today they surprise not only in their freshness and their narrative
innovation; it transpires that they form a Bildungsroman whose interdependent
parts constitute a psychological whole that reaches its climax at the end.
Inbar Lagstein, Pnai Time