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Days of Ziklag [2 vols.]

S. Yizhar
In the summer of 1948, a company of Israeli soldiers seizes a hilltop Arab position, in a place which may or may not be the biblical Ziklag, and holds it for six days, in the end fighting off an Egyptian armored attack. First published in 1958, ten years after Israel's War of Independence, Days of Ziklag was the first Hebrew novel to deal openly with the brutality of the war and its destruction of pastoral Arab villages. These soldiers begin to question the humanist, socialist heritage of their parents. Within the structure of the seven days of battle, Yizhar examines his generation's ideological crisis. For this he uses the framework of the small commando group, intimate and dedicated. He exploits their intimacy, travelling through their collective consciousness and laying bare their interior monologue, giving expression to the experience of the 1948 generation. always against the backdrop of the land - its changing hues and moods.
Mo less important in Days of Ziklag is Yizhar's peerless descriptive ability. He gives perfect renditions of sensory impressions and shows remarkable skill with minute technical descriptions. With its minimal plot, Days of Ziklag maps out space so vast that the book has been called "the fictional study of the Zionist enterprise."
Although considered to be a book about Israel's War of Independence, 1948 is mainly the quarry from which Yizhar drew his raw material. It is true that anyone seeking a history of the war will find here an authentic account, but critics agree that Days of Ziklag is universal and ageless - a book about war, life and death.
For Days of Ziklag Yizhar was awarded in 1959 both the Brenner Prize and the Israel Prize. 


PARTIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).


There is Some of Yizhar in every [Israeli] writer who has come after him.

Author Amos Oz

A symphonic work. Much of the Israeli Hebrew prose of the last decades has emerged from the folds of Yizhar’s cloak … Writers who are as remote and as fundamentally different from each other as can be have all obtained basic intellectual premises from Yizhar, components of narrative strategy, as well as  stylistic possibilities.
Author Amos Oz, Haaretz

 

Since the book came out, I haven't stopped reading it … Days of Ziklag is one of the rare books in world literature which one can enjoy reading even without finishing it or without reading it in order ... Is it just the great epic of the 1948 Independence War? Days of Ziklag has become the book of that war. It is such a profound expression of the war that after its publication significant novels on the subject ceased being written … In this mighty, massive book it is as if he has paralyzed the others and left no room. In describing the experience of the war he has set such high aesthetic standards that many writers have hesitated to follow in his footsteps … The book's greatest and most original aesthetic achievement is the creation of a collective stream-of-consciousness ... Days of Ziklag is the most instructive interior and sociological study of the spirit of the War of Independence generation ...  Yizhar was first and foremost one of the greatest Hebrew writers of all time. He had a linguistic orchestra with varied and diverse tools which could give detailed and suggestive descriptions of nature, of internal feelings during war-time, of voices and of emotion. Whoever picks up a page of Yizhar's text is immediately inside a world of nature, and of the internal feelings of battle.

Author Abraham B. Yehoshua


One of the most important novels of the War of Independence and, indeed, of the entire Israeli literary canon. A huge work of dense and poetic Hebrew which illuminates more the tragedy than the wickedness of war.
Poet Haim Gouri

Yizhar's language is highly original and inventive. He pushes Hebrew to new frontiers …Days of Ziklag is the first great novel by a Sabra writer and one of the most important antiwar novels in any language.

The Village Voice Literary Supplement

There is not, nor is there likely to be, another writer in the realm of Hebrew literature like Yizhar, who stands with both feet firmly planted on the ground and his head way up in the sky … Israel's greatest author - the most principled, moral and humanistic writer ever in this place, also the bravest. And uncompromising, never tempted to go with any flow. When he referred to the heroism of death in war as hypocritical supremacy in his novel Days of Ziklag, he rejected everything that was thought or said by an entire society and quarreled with his friends … A novel that is tremendous both in scope and in its rare, literary skills as it reveals, in full, the history of the war … This is Yizhar's rousing, complex genius … This complexity is also present in his literary language: Yizhar was the first sabra in Hebrew literature, an utterly secular Israeli who, in effervescent and impassioned joy, suffused the colossal literary space of a new, Hebrew culture.

Author Avirama Golan, Haaretz

 

Yizhar was our James Joyce and our Marcel Proust and our Samuel Beckett all in one. And the idea of Days of Ziklag does resemble Waiting for Godot, in that on a certain hill in the south, during the War of Independence, young soldiers don't know what they are fighting for there and why, and the main thing is that their furlough will come, like Godot … Instead of just saying that Yizhar was "the most important of the Palmach generation writers," and thinking that in this I have done my duty, it is necessary really to take some time out and read Days of Ziklag and come to the huge whipping that it gives to our cultural impoverishment ... to the fact that we live here on crumbs of culture and nothing that is truly serious and deep and rooted. Days of Ziklag is perhaps the most heroic attempt that has been made here to move beyond these crumbs and construct a soaring cathedral in the Hebrew language.

Author benny Ziffer, Haaretz

 

A strikingly revealing moral document.

Prof. Robert Alter, Commentary

 

Many younger Israeli intellectuals at the time regarded Days of Ziklag as the definitive reckoning for their generation … The kind of novel that is a searing document of its time.

Prof. Robert Alter, The New Republic

 

One of the greatest writers of Hebrew literature, certainly of those born here. He fused the beauty of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf with the exquisite quality of Uri Nissan Gnessin. He was the most modern writer of his generation and the most universal in style and structure … There wasn’t a writer in Hebrew, before or after him, who managed like he did to reach the heart and breadth of Eretz Israel – especially the landscape of the Negev – and to understand it both as a whole and in its different parts … He created a style which allowed him to deal with the landscape in a completely new way. In his epic novel on the War of Independence, Days of Ziklag, the writer himself conquers the Negev – covering each step with a flow of words – before it is conquered by the soldiers who fought there for their lives.

Prof. Gershom Shaked, Yedioth Ahronoth; MHL

Without doubt, the greatest and most profound work in the literature of the War of Independence … In Days of Ziklag a sharp turn in the development of Hebrew fiction occurs … Precisely because Yizhar never tried to give this work external completeness, he has apparently attained the greatest artistic achievement in the Hebrew literature of the past generation … The genuine and most impressive poetic expression that was capable of being created in the intellectual situation of this generation ... The reader’s first emergence from the stunning space of Days of Ziklag, is totally marked by astonishment at the rare singularity and power of this narrative feat, precisely as it is the story of people at war. 

Prof. Dan Miron, Four Aspects of Contemporary Hebrew Literature

Days of Ziklag is a turning point and a highly significant achievement. This is in fact the first story about the War of Independence that reconstructs the experience not as we thought we had lived it and not as we wanted to live it, but rather as we actually, genuinely lived it. There is therefore a great deal that can be learned from it … With a sensitivity of perception  about psychological processes, situations, and landscapes, Yizhar has attained an astonishingly exhaustive level. From this point of view, his book is not only a unique phenomenon in Hebrew literature, but it also is one of the finest depictions of war in world literature.

Prof. Eli Schweid, Molad

 

Days of Ziklag remains in the eyes of many the fictional study of the Zionist enterprise; so deep, multi-faceted and beautifully written.

Prof. Benny Morris, The Jerusalem Post

 

There was none like him profound in vision and expressive. He made Hebrew at once a celebration and a challenge. He saw the depth of things and was a part of them. Since Yizhar, Hebrew literature hasn't been what it was. He created a style, not just literature ... Yizhar gave Hebrew literature a taste that will never dissipate.

Former president Shimon Peres


In its scope, and no less significantly, in its anti-war humanism, Days of Ziklag takes after Tolstoy’s War and Peace … A unique creation: a national epos which includes neither pathos nor an overview, but rather anti-war content  … If there is anything heroic in this work, it is the prose. Days of Ziklag represents a magnificent, even ostentatious, conquest of the Hebrew language.

Arik Glasner, Yedioth Ahronoth 

The largest and most mature of Yizhar's works, the novel Days of Ziklag, is considered one of the best and most influential on Hebrew literature.

Ynet

 

His massive work, Days of Ziklag, published in the late 1950s, completely changed the outlook for Hebrew prose on the one hand, and "war literature" on the other.
The Jerusalem Post

   
Yizhar The Days of Ziklag
Title Days of Ziklag
Author’s Last Name Yizhar
Author's First Name S.
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1958
Publisher 2 (Hebrew) Zmora-Bitan
Year of Publication 2 (Hebrew) 1989
No. Pages 1156 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Yemei Tziklag
Representation Represented by ITHL

Translations

 
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