Nissan, a gentle, 21-year-old Israeli philosophy student, leaves his tough homeland and his mother’s stifling love, and goes to Paris. There, he spends the winter with his gay friend Ogen, a former Israeli who washes dishes in a restaurant for a living. But Nissan cannot love him, so he rents an attic from 90-year-old Madame Titi, who lives below him in the old house. Although her husband has been dead for twenty years, she complains that he gets into her bed every night, clings to her body and won’t let her sleep. Nissan, alone in the attic, also struggles with desire. He is repulsed by physical contact, and although women want him, they find that he can’t give them anything. Fiona, a poor migrant from Eastern Europe who sews at night on an old machine, waits for him in vain, while Sophie, who has come to Paris from the countryside, resolutely invades his attic. But Nissan turns his back on her and later flees to wander like a ghost through the streets of Paris.
Lilach Nethanel has written a novel
that is poetic, impressionistic and daring. Paris at the start of this century
is depicted as a beautiful literary city, but also one that is tired and poisonous, attracting
exiles who hope in vain to be reborn, while Nissan is a reincarnation of the
alienated youths found in Hebrew novels of the early 20th century.
His return to Europe – the old homeland – is an attempt to turn back the
wheel of history.
TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
The Old Homeland is one of those
tender, alarming, beautiful novels that take on what the collective finds
difficult to take on: the creation of a composition, a disciplined order, an
Apollonian beauty, making understandable something that is chaotic, unclear and
profoundly disturbing, that Israeli identity is struggling with right now.
The Bernstein Prize Committee, July 2015
The book is riveting,
unique, very original. It’s great to be a writer when there are writers like
this around you.
Author Haim Be'er, Globes
Like a lash from a gust of wind blowing from somewhere else, a place that exists only in the imagination … One should read this book by Nethanel … like a letter that has arrived late, from a distant past … The letter, like the city it describes, is adorned and lovely and cursed … A book that comes out and marches with the 19th century romantic poètes maudits – Baudelaire, Varlaine and Rimbaud.
Lilach Nethanel’s literary talent is unequivocal … Despite the inspiration she draws from the princes of Hebrew prose of the early 20th century, Nethanel is much easier to digest than they are. There is neatness, stability and polish in her writing ... She creates landscapes reminiscent of Chagall’s paintings – everything hovers in the air, above reality ... There’s no doubt that Nethanel knows how to deploy tempting and beautiful idioms.
Lilach Nethanel has written a unique book in a unique style, very personal and rich … Engrossing, well written and warmly recommended. Nethanel handles the sexuality of her characters delicately and very artistically. She also paints a wonderful portrait of her lonely, alienated heroes' inability to integrate into the life of this foreign city, where they roam around like ghosts.
This is a book that has the courage to say its piece, and to say it in its own way … It is rare that a true work of literature written in this country constructs a position and bears relevance. This is that kind of rare occasion.
I wholeheartedly recommend The Old Homeland.
There are few books that can glitter like gems in such a pleasurable way. I’ll
go as far as to say that if Virginia Wolf had been writing today and in Hebrew,
this is exactly how she would be writing.