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Piano in Winter

Ayelet Shamir
It all happens at Joe's Piano Bar in a small village in the north of Israel. On a cold and stormy night in December, Joe Ochana, an aging ex-seaman, is working at the bar; with him are his pianist, a weary and frustrated man, and a young Arab kitchen worker, Fadil. A party of six-four go-getting young men and two women-stop there on their way back to Tel Aviv. It is getting late. Joe wants to close his bar and go home, but the guests insist on having a drink. Outside, it is raining hard and inside, with or without strong drinks, a quarrel breaks out, awakening the sleeping demons of Israeli society-the tension between prosperous urbanites and underprivileged periphery, Jews and Arabs, women and men. But no one suspects how this dark night will end.
Piano in Winter is an almost cinematographic drama, that skillfully builds up the tension between the varied, sharply etched characters. What emerges from Shamir's powerful writing, as it shifts from soft piano music to a fist in the stomach, is the Israeli condition-a story of men who do not give in.
By dawn the entire bar is in ruins. Fadil is rushed unconscious to hospital and the others go home. The night has come to an end, but the memory of it will remain. As does the major question in the book: could things have been different?
Piano in Winter won the Wiener Prize for Original Writing.

Built like a piece of music … This debut novel so accomplished, so well controlled, it looks like a classic … Has a place between Greek tragedy, Albert Camus and Jean Genet.

Matricule des anges                                              


Ayelet Shamir has written a rare and very powerful first novel. Harsh, slashing, without any niceties, she explores Israeli society in the grip of tensions between rich and poorer, men and women, Jews and Arabs … A modern drama with a tense melody that gets ever louder.                                                                        


I found myself helpess under the whip of [Shamir’s] language … This is an authentic Greek tragedy … The last movement of this symphony bursts out with Wagnerian force, leaving a deafening silence in its wake.


A remarkable first novel that deals with the paradoxes tearing apart Israeli society.


This interior novel shows amazing mastery and flow … It has a musical lexicon – couterpoint, chamber music, the right tone.


Piano in Winter is a very rich book ... a dramatic human encounter that exposes the participants' psychology with great skill, layer after layer, charging the conflict with painful, tragic meaning.
Author Abraham B.Yehoshua

A tough and very masculine story about urges and violence ... [It is] like a film camera moving from zoom-in to panoramic long-shot ... It creates moments of beauty ... yet also exposes [a world] behind our mediocre, sane existence, that is teeming with sinister elements.

This beautiful, disturbing book is a condensed, breathtaking drama without anything we are accustomed to expect from 'women's literature' ... Even the Hebrew is masculine: wonderful, rich, but at the same time composed and measured.

A daring and disturbing novel ... It reveals some of the darkest secrets of male intimacy and explores the anxiety and aggression that control it.

Piano in Winter
Title Piano in Winter
Author’s Last Name Shamir
Author's First Name Ayelet
Language(s) Hebrew, French
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2007
No. Pages 315 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Psanter Ba-Choref
Representation Represented by ITHL


French: Paris, Christian Bourgois, 2010

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