In the summer of 1948, a company of Israeli soldiers seizes a hilltop Arab position, in a place which may or may not be the biblical Ziklag, and holds it for six days, in the end fighting off an Egyptian armored attack.
First published in 1958, ten years after Israel's War of Independence, Days of Ziklag
was the first Hebrew novel to deal openly with the brutality of the war and its destruction of pastoral Arab villages. These soldiers begin to question the humanist, socialist heritage of their parents. Within the structure of the seven days of battle, Yizhar examines his generation's ideological crisis. For this he uses the framework of the small commando group, intimate and dedicated. He exploits their intimacy, travelling through their collective consciousness and laying bare their interior monologue, giving expression to the experience of the 1948 generation. always against the backdrop of the land - its changing hues and moods.
Mo less important in Days of Ziklag
is Yizhar's peerless descriptive ability. He gives perfect renditions of sensory impressions and shows remarkable skill with minute technical descriptions. With its minimal plot, Days of Ziklag
maps out space so vast that the book has been called "the fictional study of the Zionist enterprise."
Although considered to be a book about Israel's War of Independence, 1948 is mainly the quarry from which Yizhar drew his raw material. It is true that anyone seeking a history of the war will find here an authentic account, but critics agree that Days of Ziklag
is universal and ageless - a book about war, life and death.
For Days of Ziklag
Yizhar was awarded in 1959 both the Brenner Prize and the Israel Prize.
PARTIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
is Some of Yizhar in every [Israeli] writer who has come after him.
A symphonic work. Much
of the Israeli Hebrew prose of the last decades has emerged from the folds of
Yizhar’s cloak … Writers who are as remote and as fundamentally different from
each other as can be have all obtained basic intellectual premises from Yizhar,
components of narrative strategy, as well as
Author Amos Oz, Haaretz
the book came out, I haven't stopped reading it … Days of Ziklag is one
of the rare books in world literature which one can enjoy reading even without
finishing it or without reading it in order ... Is it just the great epic of the
1948 Independence War? Days of Ziklag has become the book of that
war. It is such a profound expression of the war that after its publication
significant novels on the subject ceased being written … In this mighty,
massive book it is as if he has paralyzed the others and left no room. In
describing the experience of the war he has set such high aesthetic standards
that many writers have hesitated to follow in his footsteps … The book's greatest and
most original aesthetic achievement is the creation of a collective stream-of-consciousness ... Days of Ziklag is the most instructive interior and sociological study of the spirit of the War of Independence generation ... Yizhar was first and foremost one of the greatest Hebrew writers of all time. He had a linguistic orchestra with varied and diverse tools which could give detailed and suggestive descriptions of nature, of internal feelings during war-time, of voices and of emotion. Whoever picks up a page of Yizhar's text is immediately inside a world of nature, and of the internal feelings of battle.
of the most important novels of the War of Independence and, indeed, of the
entire Israeli literary canon. A huge work of dense and poetic Hebrew which
illuminates more the tragedy than the wickedness of war.
language is highly original and inventive. He pushes Hebrew to new frontiers …Days
of Ziklag is the first great novel by a Sabra writer and one of the most
important antiwar novels in any language.
The Village Voice
is not, nor is there likely to be, another writer in the realm of Hebrew
literature like Yizhar, who stands with both feet firmly planted on the ground
and his head way up in the sky … Israel's greatest author - the most
principled, moral and humanistic writer ever in this place, also the bravest.
And uncompromising, never tempted to go with any flow. When he referred to the
heroism of death in war as hypocritical supremacy in his novel Days of
Ziklag, he rejected everything that was thought or said by an entire
society and quarreled with his friends … A novel that is tremendous both in
scope and in its rare, literary skills as it reveals, in full, the history of
the war … This is Yizhar's rousing, complex genius … This complexity is also
present in his literary language: Yizhar was the first sabra in Hebrew
literature, an utterly secular Israeli who, in effervescent and impassioned
joy, suffused the colossal literary space of a new, Hebrew culture.
Avirama Golan, Haaretz
was our James Joyce and our Marcel Proust and our Samuel Beckett all in one.
And the idea of Days of Ziklag does resemble Waiting for Godot,
in that on a certain hill in the south, during the War of Independence, young
soldiers don't know what they are fighting for there and why, and the main
thing is that their furlough will come, like Godot … Instead of just saying
that Yizhar was "the most important of the Palmach generation
writers," and thinking that in this I have done my duty, it is necessary
really to take some time out and read Days of Ziklag and come to the
huge whipping that it gives to our cultural impoverishment ... to the fact that we live here on crumbs of culture and nothing that is
truly serious and deep and rooted. Days of Ziklag is perhaps the most
heroic attempt that has been made here to move beyond these crumbs and
construct a soaring cathedral in the Hebrew language.
benny Ziffer, Haaretz
strikingly revealing moral document.
Robert Alter, Commentary
younger Israeli intellectuals at the time regarded Days of Ziklag as the
definitive reckoning for their generation … The kind of novel that is a searing
document of its time.
Robert Alter, The New Republic
of the greatest writers of Hebrew literature, certainly of those born here. He
fused the beauty of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf with the exquisite quality
of Uri Nissan Gnessin. He was the most modern writer of his generation and the
most universal in style and structure … There wasn’t a writer in Hebrew, before
or after him, who managed like he did to reach the heart and breadth of Eretz
Israel – especially the landscape of the Negev – and to understand it both as a
whole and in its different parts … He created a style which allowed him to deal
with the landscape in a completely new way. In his epic novel on the War of
Independence, Days of Ziklag, the writer himself conquers the Negev –
covering each step with a flow of words – before it is conquered by the
soldiers who fought there for their lives.
Gershom Shaked, Yedioth Ahronoth; MHL
Without doubt, the greatest and most profound work in the literature
of the War of Independence … In Days of Ziklag a sharp turn in the
development of Hebrew fiction occurs … Precisely because Yizhar never tried to
give this work external completeness, he has apparently attained the greatest
artistic achievement in the Hebrew literature of the past generation … The
genuine and most impressive poetic expression that was capable of being created
in the intellectual situation of this generation ... The reader’s first emergence from the stunning space of Days
of Ziklag, is totally marked by astonishment at the rare singularity and
power of this narrative feat, precisely as it is the story of people at war.
Prof. Dan Miron, Four Aspects of Contemporary Hebrew
Days of Ziklag is a turning point
and a highly significant achievement. This is in fact the first story about the
War of Independence that reconstructs the experience not as we thought we had
lived it and not as we wanted to live it, but rather as we actually, genuinely
lived it. There is therefore a great deal that can be learned from it … With a
sensitivity of perception about
psychological processes, situations, and landscapes, Yizhar has attained an
astonishingly exhaustive level. From this point of view, his book is not only a
unique phenomenon in Hebrew literature, but it also is one of the finest
depictions of war in world literature.
Prof. Eli Schweid, Molad
remains in the eyes of many the fictional study of the Zionist
enterprise; so deep, multi-faceted and beautifully written.
Benny Morris, The Jerusalem Post
was none like him profound in vision and expressive. He made Hebrew at once a
celebration and a challenge. He saw the depth of things and was a part of them.
Since Yizhar, Hebrew literature hasn't been what it was. He created a style,
not just literature ... Yizhar gave Hebrew literature a taste that will never
Former president Shimon Peres
In its scope, and no less
significantly, in its anti-war humanism, Days of Ziklag takes after
Tolstoy’s War and Peace … A unique creation: a national epos which
includes neither pathos nor an overview, but rather anti-war content … If there is anything heroic in this work,
it is the prose. Days of Ziklag represents a magnificent, even
ostentatious, conquest of the Hebrew language.
Arik Glasner, Yedioth
largest and most mature of Yizhar's works, the novel Days of Ziklag, is
considered one of the best and most influential on Hebrew literature.
massive work, Days of Ziklag, published in the late 1950s, completely
changed the outlook for Hebrew prose on the one hand, and "war
literature" on the other.