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The Memory Monster

Yishai Sarid

The narrator of Yishai Sarid’s powerful novella is a young Israeli Holocaust scholar who never intended to become one. Or to guide Israeli high school students to the Nazi death camps in Poland. He did love history, but just wanted to live a quiet life of a historian, avoiding research into his own people’s suffering. However, practical considerations and the need to make a living – he had in the meantime married and fathered a son – led him to write his doctoral thesis on the death camps and to start working as a guide, first at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem and then at the camps themselves. He came to see his job as a way to pass on the memory of the Holocaust, and thought he was immune to the stress involved. But memory became a monster – he slowly became addicted to his occupation, renting an apartment in Warsaw and staying away from home for long periods of time. His son, his wife told him, is being bullied by his preschool peers. He is a gentle child, one who does not know how to hit back and defend himself.

Sarid’s novella is written as a report by the narrator to his superior in Jerusalem, in which he tries to explain a violent and embarrassing incident at a death camp. In this incident, he lost his temper and hit a German movie director who was also trying to address the memory that Germans and Jews have in common, and was making a film on the extermination of the Jews. Ranging beyond pure report, the narrator describes himself, his life story and his mental deterioration. He raises ethical questions about the struggle to cope with the memory of the Holocaust; the lessons to be drawn; the connection between the Jews of then and the Israelis of today; the adulation of power, and what turns human beings into killers. He also claims that in the camps the illusion of humanity was wiped out, and that anyone could become a murderer. High culture, refined art, scientific progress – all these are simply a thin veil that cannot protect us.

 

 

ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only). 

 

 

REVIEWS 

The most meaningful book ever written here about morals and victimhood. Alongside Primo Levi and Hannah Arendt, it forms a “holy trinity.”

Poet Navit Barel


A punch in the gut … written with emotional credibility … A very powerful book, a must, in my opinion.

Author Sarah Blau, IDF Radio

 

The book is gutsy, disconcerting, the kind of book it’s hard to break away from until the final page.

Journalist Nahum Barnea, Yedioth Ahronoth

 

Sarid performs the most important act that literature can offer us – the story that he has written represents, to the same extent as it creates, what has been and what will be, in a process that enables thought about what there is, but also about what there could be … The Memory Monster is something of a peak, and in its wake it becomes clear that Sarid is a plot-oriented writer … The book weaves the sub-plots into its central course with satisfying skill. The various plot lines join together, reverberate and create contacts that it is possible to describe only in musical language … A slim volume, but it provides a protracted read, and I carry it inside myself and wonder about it.     

Uri S. Cohen, Haaretz


As it moves forward, the story is gradually taken over by something delicate and reliable, something that also dovetails with the psychological process the book sets out to depict … Sarid touches with credibility upon a world of fantasy, describes a familiar thing as a menacing hallucination … The book provides a fair amount of historical facts and details, supplying the reader with what appear to be authentic and valuable information.

Yoni Livneh, Yedioth Ahronoth


A huge and bitter cry over the atrocities of the Holocaust, over its being possible at all, over the world that gave birth to it … Sarid’s rhetorical strength, and his very choice of a hero who researches the practical details of the annihilation, bring the book to its climax … Sarid deserves to be listened to, even if the mirror that he holds up to us distorts.   

Tsur Ehrlich, Hashiloach

 

Yishai Sarid does it again: His new book is different from its predecessor, but as important as them … What are the lessons of the Holocaust? What should the "Memory Monster" tell us? What happens when it becomes an exhibit, a computer game, a movie? The novella The Memory Monster touches upon each of these questions, with wisdom, wit, and remarkable sensitivity. A must read! 

Ofra Offer Oren, Literary Blog

 

Yishai Sarid has done it for me once more. He clamped me to his new book, kept me tense throughout and left me stunned. Breathless. This is not at all a thriller, it is an imaginative novel that is so firmly planted in the reality of our lives, pokes around and breaks up our collective soul with such precision, and is so rich in the details of social and cultural processes, that it grips your throat and punches you in the gut, and excites the emotions and thoughts into a great storm that doesn’t die down until long after you’ve finished reading … Sarid has written a slim book but it is overflowing and abundant both in the hero and what he has gone through, and no less in everything around him – the material that he deals with …  Sarid’s keyboard is really a sharp surgeon’s lancet with which he slaughters one of the most sacred cows that we have: memorialization of the Holocaust … This is an important book to read, a breathtaking book, which will horrify all those who care, but don’t be mistaken: it is also a fine novel, very readable, not-put-downable, written in a style that is succinct and rich and precise. Read it. A must, and also an amazing reading experience.

Orit Harel, Literary Blog

 

Challenging and subversive … A focused and thought-provoking novel.

Talma Admon, Maariv 

 

Sarid makes harsh and vehement statements … Israelis of all stripes come under his scrutiny and none of them emerge unscathed.

Zohara Ron, Globes


It is worth your while to read the latest book by Yishai Sarid, who succeeds in getting to the bottom of our anxieties as a society.

Omri Horesh, Mako

 

These are questions that must be asked: would you have survived? How would you have survived? What would you have agreed to do in order to survive? … Sarid manages to ask these questions without falling into didactic pomposity and manages to track the answers without fearing what he’ll find at the end of the road, and the reader is invited to follow at a measured pace and with a pounding heart …This road is intriguing and horrifying and Sarid sketches it with wisdom and skill, up to the final moment.

Meital Sharon, Literary Blog


It’s not easy to slaughter such a sacred cow as Holocaust memory, but Sarid is up to the task. This book can be devoured in two hours, but after closing it one is left with many unanswerable questions.

Maya Levin, Laisha


This is an amazingly courageous book, a must-read for parents, educators, politicians and anyone who wishes to expand the views seen through his windows.

Inbar Ushpiz, Saloona


A fascinating, recommended book. 

Shiri Zuck, Channel 2 TV 


The pellucid language, ostensibly quotidian but so sensitive and un-shallow, captivated me ... It is impossible not to salute the detailed and meticulous research … The book is not only readable, moving and intriguing, it is also a compulsory document for all those who, like myself, run away from anything to do with the Holocaust. 

Ito Aviram, Hitrashmut


Yishai Sarid is a gifted writer … I believe every word that he writes. There isn’t a single superfluous word in The Memory Monster … It left me breathless … I foresee (and hope) that this book will stir up some trenchant debates.. This is a gripping book.

Sarit Flain, Literary Blog


The book is written with integrity, minimalism and precision, creating great credibility … A truly resounding book … A very important document on the subject of memory … One of the most piercing books about the Holocaust that I have read … Sarid set out to slaughter the memory of Holocaust and apparently on the way he discovered that it is impossible or perhaps that he actually was not interested in doing that … A small, though-provoking book.

David Simhon, Olam Katan


Do not allow the slimness of this volume to mislead you; it is a disturbing book and after you have read it, it does not let simply move on to the next book. Rather, you need a little more time to think about its contents and to let them subside ... A gripping and important book.

Meira Barnea Goldberg, Melabes

 


Title The Memory Monster
Author’s Last Name Sarid
Author's First Name Yishai
Language(s) Hebrew, German
Genre novella
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2017
No. Pages 136 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Mifletzet Ha-Zikaron
Representation Represented by ITHL

Translations

Spanish: Buenos Aires, Siglio, forthcoming

French: Arles, Actes Sud, Forthcoming 

German: Zurich, Kein & Aber, 2019

Italian: Rome, E/O, 2019

Russian: Moscow, Sinbad, forthcoming 

Catalan: Barcelona, Club Editore, forthcoming


 
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