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Fanny and Gabriel

“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.

Title Fanny and Gabriel
Writer's Last Name Semel
Writer's First Name Nava
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Zmora-Bitan
No. Pages 460pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Fanny Ve-Gavriel
  • “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
  • “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.”