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English translation available (for publishers only)

The Substance of Life: Fragments

Each one of the 29 short chapters in this unique novel-in-fragments is a self-contained narrative in its own right: a short story, a parable, a word-picture, a discreet memory, a confession. Together, they form a whole that eludes precise definition or easy classification. A more-or-less realistic novel in the “life writing” tradition, ostensibly autobiographical albeit largely fictionalized, The Substance of Life: Fragments (a stand-alone taken from a longer, as yet unfinished work) also reads as a series of posts in a personal blog that was never actually uploaded to the Internet. In meticulous, deceptively matter-of-fact language that’s nevertheless rich, nuanced, sensual and exceptionally insightful, it captures individual episodes and moments of being, rescuing them from the jaws of the perpetual-disappearance monster that swallows up daily, relentlessly, the irreplaceable moments of our lives. In Livni’s telling the ordinary takes on an extraordinary aspect, the quotidian becomes wondrous. Life in its minuscule variations, tiny surprises, ugly gruesomeness and its everyday, heartbreaking glory, is magically transformed into powerful, exquisitely beautiful literature.

It begins thus:

“A donkey lay at the side of the road, with a broken back, apparently after being hit by a vehicle or because of a too-heavy  burden. It was on King George Street, near our home, on a sweltering day during summer vacation, in the afternoon. The stores were closed and there was little traffic. We’d finished lunch and mother and father were taking a nap. I came downstairs to sit on the concrete wall next to the house facing the scorching street, swinging my legs in the short pants against the shaded, rough concrete, letting the gusts of hot khamseen wind dry the sweat off my face with smooth dabs just at the moment of its ticklish appearance, enjoying the pleasantness of the meeting point of the smoothness and the tickle and the pleasant scratch of the concrete against my legs, lifting the cracks of my eyes up to the street, allowing the bright strokes of light to penetrate them. And then I saw the donkey.”

Title The Substance of Life: Fragments
Writer's Last Name Livni
Writer's First Name Yitzhak
Genre Fiction
No. Pages 128pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Kta'im Mi-Toch Chomer Ha-Chayim
  • “The literary event of the year.”

  • “A wonderful writing talent … Each line is a gem … Magnificent literature!”

    Poet Ory Bernstein
  • “A gifted writer … The book contains some of the best descriptions ever written of the Tel Aviv cityscape. ”

    Avraham Balaban, Haaretz
  • “This is a marvelous book in my opinion … it attempts to affix on paper things that are no longer.”

    Rivka Michaeli, 103 FM
  • “Personal fragments, as clear as crystal, magical moments of this thing called life marching past.”