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Block 23

These two related apocalyptic novellas by Amos Kenan predict a frightening future for Israel. Reality becomes distorted and mutilated, and the time of the events is unclear. The first novella takes place after a war which destroyed Tel Aviv. The inhabitants, including the narrator, live in what seems to be a POW camp like those depicted in films about World War II. Kenan describes daily life in the camp grotesquely and satirically: every morning one person is executed, and those who are found ill with leprosy are sent to a lepers’ colony, where they literally eat themselves. The novella is full of nostalgia for “Little Tel Aviv,” for the narrator’s childhood, whose biography is similar to Kenan’s own.

The second novella, which is written in an epistolary style, finds the narrator living alone in a pit dug in an orchard. It grows increasingly grotesque, because the narrator is a madman who believes that he can fly. In both novellas the narrator is seen as the eternal rebel, an underground fighter who will stop at nothing. In the first, he digs a tunnel which will become an underground Tel Aviv, and in the second, it is from his pit that he plans the creation of an ideal world which will rise from the ashes of the declining, degenerate old world.

Title Block 23
Writer's Last Name Kenan
Writer's First Name Amos
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Zmora-Bitan
No. Pages 161pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Block 23
  • “ Few writers can take it upon themselves to predict the future and to combine it with allegories of the Holocaust and wars over the essence of Man, to allow their heroes personal, national memories, memories of the recent past and collective memories.”