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Short Stories

Benjamin Tammuz

When Tammuz’s first stories were published in 1950, they were ahead of their time and were unusual in comparison to the realistic prose then being published in Israel. Today, they are still considered a milestone in the annals of the Hebrew short story. The present collection combines four books that Tammuz published during his literary career, plus three additional stories.

The tales in Sands of Gold (Machbarot Lesifrut, 1950), Tammuz's first book, are set in old Tel Aviv—then still a small town— and in a rural settlement south of it, during the time of the British Mandate. Tammuz harkens back nostalgically to the experiences of childhood, to purity, innocence and growing pains. The stories focus on a sensitive, introverted boy, described through the eyes of an adult narrator grieving for a world that has been destroyed.

In his second collection, A Garden Enclosed (Schocken, 1957), Tammuz included satirical, grotesque and topical stories, sketching a portrait of Israeli society after the 1948-49 War of Independence. Here, Tammuz becomes a critic of contemporary Israeli society, condemning the vulgarity and ugliness of modern urban reality.

In The Story of Anton the Armenian and Other Stories (Machbarot Lesifrut, 1964), we see Tammuz’s need to respond to historical events emerge. The relationships between characters reflect the conflicts between nations, and these stories of ideas portray Israel that is being built on the ruins of the authentic, rural Jewish-Arab country of the past, during the early Zionist colonization.

In his fourth collection, The Bitter Scent of Geranium (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1980), Tammuz returns to the Land of Israel in the 1920s and 30s. Embedding them in the great historic events of the time, he portrays various types of Jewish immigrants in old Tel Aviv. Their static nature, their eccentric traits, and the narrator's distanced objectivity create a humorous tone.


The great importance of these little tales lies in their difference from the conventional concept of the Israeli short story … There is no pathological chasing after sensations. Ostensibly modest trifles, which nonetheless feel authentic, are the subjects of these stories … Tammuz tells us about people the way that they [really] are, about childhood and youth … His eye uncovers something universally human for us. 

Baruch Kurzweil, Haaretz, 24.11.50

Short stories that are clearly Israeli … The prose is clean, polished, rich, poetic and lyrical … The author introduces humorous and ironic notes of the finest kind ... “Horizon” is a typically Israeli tale but an excellent international one – original, colorful, rounded and rich, both lyrical and sarcastic – in short, an exemplary story … Tammuz is good at recounting memories, at reviving events after time has distilled them and they have reached a refined state.  

Israel Zmora, Davar, 4.12.59

The impression made by the de luxe edition of Sands of Gold reaffirms the indubitable value of the short story … The economy [of style], self-control, clean humor and restrained lyricism – these are all the signs of the cultivation and refinement that won admiration and affection for Sands of Gold when it first appeared. 

Dan Miron, Haaretz, 22.4.60

An interesting and important collection … Tammuz tackles the Israeli way of life from a new perspective, one that forgoes all cheap effects … [he makes] an honest effort to shake off the provincial banality of the Israeli short story. …Tammuz’s great linguistic skill, his economical use of words, of dialogue, and in particular of delicate situations, are what determine the value of these stories.

Baruch Kurzweil, Haaretz, 22.11.57

I have a liking for Tammuz’s writing, you can always feel the artist in it – especially when he portrays episodes from his childhood, because they are so delicately and sensitively [crafted]… "Angioxyl, a Rare Cure" is a model story, have rarely come across anything like it … in modern Hebrew literature … In the excellent story “The Swimming Race” the past, illuminated by the eyes of a child, takes on an idyllic dimension.  

Moshe Dor [M. Bar-Yaakov], Maariv, 21.2.64

Concentrated, excellent stories … Tammuz’s language is economical, unadorned … On deeper reading, [I find] tones of poetry, subtle humor, true sadness, and spot-on descriptions … This book is without doubt an outstanding contribution to truly modern Hebrew literature, without any artificial melancholy or intentional nostalgia. A contribution that restores the basic significance of words: the truth. 

Moshe Ben-Shaul, Moznaim, June 1964

Tammuz’s stories are flawlessly told, using means that are astonishingly simple: clever phrasing and organization of the events. The most complex situations are told with a maximum of economy and with uncommon naturalness. This book is definitely an event in the life of Hebrew literature.

Yosef Oren, Maariv, 16.5.80

We have here one of most interesting and cultivated new collections of stories … There is, in these love stories, a certain magic … their structure and the rhythm of the language are polished, as is the way that Tammuz blends in stylized literary Hebrew, which he then undermines to create comic and ironic effects ... Beyond that, there are often also intriguing and believable paradoxes that touch upon the trivialities of life …Tammuz is a great storyteller precisely because of his simplicity.

Yaron Golan, Davar, 16.5.80


Title Short Stories
Author’s Last Name Tammuz
Author's First Name Benjamin
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre stories
Publisher (Hebrew) Keter
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1987
No. Pages 362 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Sipurim
Representation Represented by ITHL