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Fanny and Gabriel

Nava Semel

“You will marry twice,” a Roma fortuneteller told Fanny, but she found this hard to believe. Gabriel, her fiancé, had vanished, thought killed in the war, but Fanny remained faithful to him, just as Penelope was faithful to Odysseus.

Fanny and Gabriel were born in Bukovina, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. They got engaged just before World War 1, but then Gabriel, like many others, was conscripted into the Imperial army. He hated war and military life and after his commander was killed in a Russian bombardment, he decided to desert, finding shelter and love with a young Russian peasant woman. He stayed with her for three years, without being in touch with his family. Meanwhile, far away, his fiancée Fanny continued to sell the excellent beer her father brewed.

When the war was over, Gabriel came home and married her. He made her swear never to ask about his years of absence, and although she tried, Fanny could not make him love her, even after the birth of their son, Yitzhak. Gabriel felt that his future lay in America. In 1921, he set sail for the United States, promising to send tickets for his wife and son as soon as he was settled. He became a Wall Street stockbroker but he never sent the tickets. A charming man, he had many affairs and lived for years with Clara as if they were man and wife. As for Fanny, the only man in her life was her talented son, and his resourcefulness saw them through the Holocaust. After World War 2, Yitzhak, his new wife and Fanny emigrated to Palestine.

Twenty-eight years after he left them, Gabriel comes to the new State of Israel to see his grandson. He finally divorces Fanny and goes back to New York. But the story of their love is not over. Ten years later, Gabriel reappears in Fanny’s life and proposes to her once again. Despite everything she accepts.

A spellbinding Jewish-Israeli novel, based on the life of the author’s grandparents, Gabriel and Fanny Hertzig. A Tale of love and hate that coincides with the great events that shook the world in the 20th century.




A delicate combination of detachment, intimacy and irony … This special manner of narration, which is postmodern, is surprising … The heroes of this book are young people who grow up and grow old as the story progresses. Accompanying them is the narrator-granddaughter  … This is one of the secrets of the book’s magic. The girl infuses the tough and tortuous story of her grandmother and grandfather  with a playful,  amusing aspect without removing its enigmatic and heartbreaking sting … She does not adhere to a single point of view, but rather molds it and changes it frequently, thereby enabling the reader to read the story in a variety of different ways …  A good, worthy novel … In an elusive and elaborate manner, the writer manages to plant in the reader an affection for the serial betrayer and doubts about the ultimately loyal female. This is one of the sad insights acquired while reading this wise and sensitive book: The suffering that people cause to those that they love cannot be prevented, and the people who cause the suffering are not necessarily bad.  

Author Judith Rotem, Haaretz


Vivid … The two main characters keep growing taller and stronger, amassing significance and influence over the events, up to a point where they resemble mythic characters … An engrossing work.

Talma Admon, Maariv


Semel has skillfully spun a tale that is both historical and personal. Further proof that she is one of the compelling writers to have blossomed here.

Omri Horesh, Mako

A riveting book! The ostensibly private family story becomes a collective story as reflected in the annals of a single family … It adds another stone to the colorful mosaic of the history of the Jewish people in our time. In particular Nava has succeeded in dovetailing reality and fiction, in closing the gaps and making the thin, emaciated skeleton of what actually happened into a wide-ranging novel that gives a faithful historical picture of Jewish life, and life in general … This is one of those books that I enjoyed every moment of while I was reading it, and I did not want it to end.

Prof. Nurit Govrin


A moving story. An enchanting book

Tsippy Gon-Gross, IDF Radio


Fanny and Gabriel is first and foremost a love story. But don’t be mistaken … this is a love with many layers … As one reads, and it is almost impossible to stop reading, a much broader canvas is unfurled … The story of one Jewish family between exile and redemption, between the Holocaust and resurrection, between Diaspora and Zionism. The saga tickles the imagination, and produces tears of sorrow and of joy throughout the entire book … This is the story of the survival of the family of this so-talented author, Nava Semel. The long and tortuous story is read with bated breath … The story’s uniqueness lies mainly in the unique writing skill of Nava Semel … the linguistic richness, her remarkable descriptive powers, her amazing imagination – which was already revealed in her earlier books – and her great love for the heroes of her books and her identification with their fate.

Nili Keren, Mako

A marvelous book. A wonderful story that Nava wraps in a whole lot of things that she made up and with amazing insights about life. A remarkable book.

Rivka Michaeli, Radio 103.FM


I flew behind these two folks in their joys and in their sorrows. Such wise and refined writing. A delicate piece of embroidery work. And what a wonderful reconstruction of an era.

Author Adiva Geffen



Title Fanny and Gabriel
Author’s Last Name Semel
Author's First Name Nava
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Zmora-Bitan
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2017
No. Pages 460 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Fanny Ve-Gavriel
Representation Represented by ITHL
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
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The second edition of the Letters of Israel festival will take place in Paris from September 8 to 18, 2017
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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!