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Scorpion Dance [Promenade à Deux]

Shifra Horn

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Orion Herman was born in Jerusalem in 1967, after his father fell in battle – the Six-Day War. The house in which he grew up had belonged to an Arab who fled during the War of Independence, leaving behind an Arabic-speaking parrot. Two women raised Orion: his mother Aviva who was found in a Polish convent at the end of the World War II and came to Israel as a child without  identity, and his grandmother Johanna who came from Germany with little Ulrich, Orion’s father, after the establishment of the state. But who was Johanna, and was Ulrich really her son? Orion will find the answers only when he grows up. To him, Johanna was a cherished and admired grandmother; others close to her saw her as an honorable woman, a dedicated midwife saturated in German culture, who had sworn never to set foot on German soil again.

After Johanna dies, Orion leaves his childhood home and moves into a new house with the parrot. He becomes a librarian at the National Library and travels around the country in a beaten up, gaily painted ice cream van that serves as a mobile library of books that the Nazis used to burn. He changes women like socks until he meets his one-and-only Christina-Anna, a German woman with a voice like flowing chocolate. Orion falls in love with her, and when she returns to her homeland he follows her there to get her back.

Shifra Horn’s novel is a colorful journey filled with the sounds and sights of Jerusalem and its intriguing characters, a journey that shifts from passionate remembrance of the past to the need to forget it.



ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).


REVIEWS

… A minuet of love and regret. […] “Scorpion Dance” is deeply immersed into Shifra Horn’s story and that of her country. But it speaks to all, intensely. 

Francesca Paci, La Stampa

 

When one reads a novel as beautiful as “Scorpion Dance” by Shifra Horn time really stops. 

Translator and author Elda Martone

A superb book, all contradictions and contrasts, binding together blossoming and withering, evil and grace … The writer’s choice to getting her male side to speak out with such impressive honesty was something of a gamble, and the outcome is a happy one … How good it is to realize that she has succeeded in finding a sort of alter-ego in his touching character … The platform, then, is given over to the male voice, and it makes virtuoso use of the abounding knowledge and the rich and layered language which it has been granted. There’s a profound enchantment in the book, in the integration of meticulous realism and caressing, poetic language … This is a magic potion of a wise and brave writer who writes about life and death with a warm intimacy, and does not recoil from microscopic descriptions replete with empathy and tolerance, which together form a singular and special mixture. Shifra Horn’s descriptions of nature in this book are among the most beautiful that I’ve read and her Hebrew provides a sense of spiritual satisfaction … Only someone who has experienced great love and who is prepared to share it with others can write like this. Scorpion Dance is a song of praise to a man who stands up boldly to his fate. It is a book that is a living and breathing organism which continues to accompany the readers long after they have taken their leave of it.    

Rivka Keren, Haaretz

 

Horn’s Hebrew in the book is rich, lofty, and complete … Another achievement of the novel lies in the construction of the male character. This is a credible male character, certainly when it comes to everything connected to the intimate descriptions of his life. Horn writes them with boldness, honesty, reliability. And there are also a few twists in the plot which make it more complex, surprising. Scorpion Dance is a layered book with multiple meanings … At its core, the book is very relevant to the lives of Jews and Arabs in this place. It touches upon the root of the pain. 

Shiri Lev-Ari, Ynet

The new book by Shifra Horn, one of my favorite authors, is an invitation to a fascinating walk through Jerusalem’s Old Katamon neighborhood. On the one hand, it is an enjoyable, enchanting walk; on the other, it is a tortuous, battering, upsetting walk through the scenery and the human experience … Shifra Horn tries to reconstruct the pain of memory and its intensity, and she does so with a special music, in rich, flowing and very sensual language. The book tickles the readers senses … If it happened to me, it will surely happen to you too.

Shlomit Cohen-Assif, Marmelada

 

I could not stop myself indulging myself in it … I cannot recall anything similar from the point of view of the metaphors and as far as the ability to express emotion is concerned … I loved the descriptions of sounds, smells and colors and everything in between … A really interesting story. The heroes are complex and not predictable. The relations between the Israelis and the Germans are complicated and interesting … I dare to predict that the experts on literature will like it and praise it; praise the imagination, the inventiveness, the rich imagery, the compassion, the humanity, and also the humor … In brief, a book that is rich and enriching, and at the end it gathers all the loose ends and brings the reader to a safe and secure place … I enjoyed it immeasurably.

Author Ora Ahimeir

 

A lovely novel … Highly deserving of the effort the reader invests in reading it, and not only thanks to the interesting plot, the overt and covert messages, the special architectural structure of the work, but also, perhaps mainly, because of the wonders of the language of Shifra Horn… Just as Amos Oz made hearts quake when he wrote My Michael from a woman’s point of view, so does Shifra Horn in writing this book from a man’s point of view … I warmly recommend it.

Moshe Granot, Hadshot Ben Ezer

 

The book gives an account of an impossible love affair … With linguistic precision and descriptive wealth … The plot is replete with passions.

Dubi Zakai, Maariv

 

Not every female writer is capable of writing a whole book as a man. Horn leaps elegantly over this hurdle and creates a child-boy-man character in a highly credible and empathy-arousing manner … It was worth waiting eight years for this book.

Meira Barnea Goldberg, Nuritha

The book is magnificent, breathtaking and written with a loving hand. I wanted it to go on forever.

Asher Kesher, Mynet Jerusalen

In Scorpion Dance, Shifra Horn has executed an enthralling literary act in an unusual manner … It is written with sensitivity and delicacy from the perspective of a member of the second generation after the Holocaust. Very slowly, as one reads the book, the overt reality emerges: memories of the past are peeled away, secrets are revealed …In a precise and sober process a dense thicket envelops and entraps the hero of the book, and with him the reader. .. The multi-faceted tension between remembering and forgetting is a principal component in the poetic realism of Scorpion Dance. The novel is branded onto the memory as an unusual novel and it constitutes a valuable contribution not only to the literature of the Holocaust, but to Hebrew literature as a whole.  

The Culture Minister's Zionism Prize Committee


     

Title Scorpion Dance [Promenade à Deux]
Author’s Last Name Horm
Author's First Name Shifra
Language(s) Hebrew, Italian
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2012
No. Pages 327 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Mechol Ha-Akrabim
Representation Represented by ITHL

Translations

Italian: Rome, Fazi, 2016 
 
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