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Letters of the Sun, Letters of the Moon

Itamar Levy
Few novels have been written about life in the shadow of the Intifada, and of those, Letters of the Sun, Letters of the Moon is particularly innovative. Itamar Levy has chosen a unique approach: he sees the events through the eyes of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Jaafar Omar Ismail Zakkut. Jaafar can neither read nor write. Presumably his school has been closed by the military authorities, and Jaafar teaches himself the Arabic alphabet in the course of the novel, each of whose chapters bears the name of each letter he masters. Jaafar's father is the number-one ice-cream manufacturer in the Middle East, admired for his commercial success and his knowledge of the Koran. But his authority has been crushed by the army, by extremists, by the breakdown of normal Palestinian life. The novel describes the family's downfall, during which Jaafar witnesses his father's murder, and the soldiers shooting and killing his favorite brother. Letters of the Sun, Letters of the Moon is far from being a realistic novel. Apart from many comically exaggerated details, it teems with arcane legends, poetry and preternatural episodes. It seems to be a paradigm of Palestinian legend, as diffuse and enigmatic as foreign perception would have it. Jaafar's imagination moves between magic and experience, maintaining a curious formality of speech, harnessing the tremendous, libidinal, primitive violence of his circumstances, and calling on the poetry of Arab language and tradition.

This is undoubtedly a great novel... This young author succeeds in creating a portrait of rare power. Our first meeting with Itamar Levy really couldn't be more successful.
Il Tempo

A moving novel....No stand is taken, no forgiveness asked. There is merely endless tenderness. The reader will feel a lump in his throat.
Le Nouvel Observateur

A small literary masterpiece and a superior example of tolerance.
Jeune Afrique

Itamar Levy’s novel is complex, enigmatic and as surprising as a mysterious arabesque... It is sad and hurts and haunts you. The reader has to return to this book, read it over and over again.

Partial English translation available (for publishers only)

Letters of the Sun, Letters of the Moon
Title Letters of the Sun, Letters of the Moon
Author’s Last Name Levy
Author's First Name Itamar
Language(s) Hebrew, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Keter
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1991
No. Pages 165 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Otiyot Ha-Shemesh, Otiyot Ha-Yare'ach
Representation Represented by ITHL


Italian: Milan, Bompiani, 1993; pback, 2000
Spanish: Barcelona, Circulo de Lectores, 1996
French: Arles, Actes Sud, 1997
German: Frankfurt, Surkhamp, 1997

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