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The Owl [Run, Soldier, Run]

These four stories, first published between 1956 and 1962, are about children growing up in disadvantaged south Tel Aviv during the World War II. In the title story, a boy’s everyday trials in Tel Aviv of the early 40s―parents fussing over his homework and the state of his fingernails―are increasingly interrupted by radio bulletins charting the Germans’ ravages across Europe. The boy fuses the chaos of the world into a blurred personal mythology staked to gothic reality by one glaring eye: “In the attic of Salomon’s house lived an owl which was a thousand years old and which put the curse of death on anyone who dared approach it.”

Here, as in the rest of this fine collection, the child’s perspective is beautifully captured. His Innocent, unblinking gaze apprehends the world and claims from its everyday stories his own unassailable knowledge. The enchanted hue imparted by the Eastern-Mizrahi residents of the neighbourhood also determines their speech, their customs and spiritual world through their folklore and culture.

Title The Owl [Run, Soldier, Run]
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Hakibbutz Hameuchad
No. Pages 153pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Ha-Yanshuf; later: Rutz, Chayal Turki
  • “ Aloni has succeeded in turning the materials of life in South Tel Aviv and his childhood stories into urban legends … The fantastic here breaks out of the borders of the local and makes it universal … Aloni is one of the fathers of the fantastic-lyrical story in Hebrew literature. The level of design, the powers of observation, and the rare ability to turn reality into fable are what give him a special place in Hebrew literature … Aloni’s stories seem to me to have had a decisive influence on the stories of Yaakov Shabtai.”

    Gershon Shaked, Haaretz
  • “ The subjective lyric tone, which can pause over experiences of an instant and through their intensity turn trivia of a growing child's life into the center of a gripping narrative confession … The four stories are delightful reading for anyone whose ear is still attuned to the lyrical story of atmosphere.”

    Chaim Shoham, Maariv
  • “Aloni’s stories, which bear the stamp of fantasy, are close to those of Günter Grass, Bulgakov and Marques … The central sensual experience in the stories is a refreshing vitality, free of apologetics or soul-scrabbling and thanks to that, the statute of limitations does not apply to these stories … The four stories make up a kind of coming of age novel, remarkable for its narrow focus and the richness of its description of experiences.”

    Gila Ramraz-Rauch, Davar
  • “There is a great abundance of symbols in the stories, a wealth of well-told experiences, a richness that makes their author a superb story-teller, highly imaginative and powerful.”

    Hillel Barzel, Moznaim
  • “It is not every day that a book appears which is a joy both to the soul and to the eyes, such as The Owl by Nissim Aloni. In each of the four stories in the collection, authenticity is evident. Only someone who has lived these things and felt their power could describe them with such clarity and with feeling that brims with musicality … There are passages that sound like poetry … The atmosphere is dynamic and vibrant … Even the spoken language becomes a unique kind of poetic language, and this is after all the author’s own particular language … Everyday spoken language becomes a joy.”