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Past Continuous

Yaakov Shabtai
Past Continuous depicts the crises in the lives of three Israeli men - Goldman, Israel and Caesar - as they attempt to focus their lives and to extract some meaning from chaos. The book opens with Goldman's suicide, which triggers innumerable flashbacks to the events that led up to it. Shabtai's subtle stream of consciousness technique draws us into an endless morass of family tangles and social exhaustion - wives and ex-wives, passing mistresses and crushing marriages, desperate intrigues and disappointments, the loss of children, friends, ideals - and back again to the lives of Goldman and his father, constantly moving between the living past and the dead present, as though there were not much difference between them. At times it appears that the real protagonist of the book is the city of Tel Aviv - its landscape, its idiosyncratic atmosphere and its history.

Yaakov Shabtai belongs to that rare category of authors whose oeuvre is small but brilliant and incomparably splendid. His images become engraved in our memory and will not leave.
Le Monde

A portrait of contemporary Israeli society that is, to my mind, the most prodigious (and probably realistic) yet in Hebrew fiction....[It] is a portrait with Balzacian breadth.
The New York Times 

I cannot recall, these past several years, having encountered a new work of fiction that has engaged me as sharply as Past Continuous, both for its brilliant, formal inventiveness and for its relentless, truth-seeking scrutiny of moral life.
Irving Howe, New York Review of Books

Past Continuous is extraordinary.  
New Republic

Past Continuous
Title Past Continuous
Author’s Last Name Shabtai
Author's First Name Yaakov
Language(s) Hebrew, English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Siman Kriah/ University Publishing Projects
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1977
Publisher 2 (Hebrew) Hakibbutz Hameuchad/ Siman Kriah
Year of Publication 2 (Hebrew) 1985; 1994
No. Pages 282 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Zichron Dvarim
Representation Represented by ITHL


English: Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1985; New York, Pantheon/Schocken, 1989; New York, Overlook Press, 2002; London, Duckworth, 2004
Spanish: Barcelona, Muchnik, 1988
German: Frankfurt, Devorah/Alibaba, 1990; pback: Frankfurt, Fischer, 1993
French: Arles, Actes Sud, 1992; pback: Babel, 2007
Dutch: Amsterdam, Arena, 1993
Italian: Rome, Theoria, 1994; pback: Milan, Feltrinelli, 1998; rev. ed.: Milan, Feltrinelli, 2006
Chinese: Guangzhou, Flower City, 1995
Portuguese: Rio de Janeiro, Imago, 1996
Turkish: Istanbul, Ithaki, 2022