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The Pure Element of Time

Haim Be’er
Haim Be’er’s new book is a flawless combination of autobiography and novel about a writer’s development. With his talent for description, his profound psychological insights and his rich writing style, Be’er turns the story of his life and the lives of his parents into a complex, gripping work of art.
Haim was born in an old Jerusalem neighborhood, the only child of an orthodox family in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the beginning of the State of Israel that defied the stereoytpe of a religious Jewish family. The boy, who inherited an aesthetic sense from his parents and grew up to be a poet and novelist, seeks in this book to reconstruct his parents’ personalities, their peculiar relationship, and their influence upon him as a man and as an artist.
The book is built as a triptych, in which the two end panels frame the principal scene. The first part deals mainly with the character of the grandmother, a kind of living archive of the family’s history as well as a natural storyteller whose tales entrance her grandson. The third part takes place mostly after the father’s death, and depicts the author’s first steps as a writer. The central and main part, deals with Be’er’s childhood and adolescence and the story of his parents’ marriage - a second and late marriage for both, to which each brought a difficult and bitter burden from the past. Their relationship is a web of contrasts - between the Jerusalem-born woman, who is revealed to be independent, courageous, wise and amazingly clear-headed, and the older man, a defeated and withdrawn refugee from the Russian pogroms, who lives a life repression and pretence, but mainly of contradiction between his attachment to a religious lifestyle and his conviction that there is no God. 
The most significant relationship is between the boy and his mother, with whom he forms an alliance (also against the father) which is never broken. Be’er’s mother is the real heroine of this book: she shaped her son’s personality and set him on his path as a writer.      

This robust and complex novel is an outstanding and unparalleled piece of work. 

A fascinating and complex literary statement. Be’er offers us a rich variety of literary possibilities that investigate how identities are shaped... The novel has a fascinating linguistic approach. It is written as a kind of pastiche of different styles, creating a strong effect of stylization that continually questions its own authority.
Herald Tribune (Israel) 
A wonderful book - deep and wise, ripe and complex, that reverberates with interesting and beautiful subject matter.
Kol Israel Radio 
I read this book with great delight.
Iton Tel Aviv 
Title The Pure Element of Time
Author’s Last Name Be’er
Author's First Name Haim
Language(s) English, German, Italian, Dutch, Chinese
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1998
Year of Publication 2 (Hebrew) 2017
No. Pages 332 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Chavalim
Representation Represented by ITHL


Dutch: Amsterdam, Vasallucci, 2000
German: Munich, dtv, 2000
English: Hanover/London, Brandeis University Press/ University Press of New England, 2003
Italian: Florence, Giuntina, 2005
Chinese: Shanghai, Shanghai Translation, 2010
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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:
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MHL - New webzine starting soon!