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Zelig Mainz and His Longings for Death

Itamar Levy
The stories of two Jewish families – Mainz and Ha'azati – are closely linked in this saga of Jewish life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The story unfolds in careful detail from the present back to the past through Nitza, who lives in a kibbutz with her son and is trying to trace her family roots. In the process of uncovering the past she learns about her grandfather, Zelig Mainz from Romania, whose fervent Zionism had led him to Palestine at the end of the last century, leaving behind his son. During World War I his son, Herman, enlisted in the German army, married and fathered Nitza. Like his father, he deserts his wife and child. Meanwhile in Palestine Zelig Mainz met and established a curious relationship with Natan Ha'azati. Together they sell counterfeit immigration certificates to Jews wanting to come to the Holy Land, and are paid with works of art and Judaica. The destinies of the two families become further enmeshed when Nitza, who has since also come to Palestine, marries Natan Ha'azati.

The peregrinations of the Mainz family, written in a humorously fantastic, even allegorical style, reflect a concise history of the Jews from biblical times until the realization of the Zionist dream.

Levy entertainingly shatters the myth of idealistic Jewish migration to Eretz Israel. In this novel, the legends which have been the cornerstone of Jewish-Israeli identity are presented in a newly critical and exciting perspective.

English translation available (for publishers only)

Zelig Mainz and His Longings for Death
Title Zelig Mainz and His Longings for Death
Author’s Last Name Levy
Author's First Name Itamar
Language(s) Hebrew, French
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Sifriat Poalim
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1985
No. Pages 122 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Zelig Maintz Ve-Gaʹaguav El Ha-Mavet
Representation Represented by ITHL


French: Paris, Liana Levi, 1989

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