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Khirbet Khizeh Paperback – 21 Apr 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Paperback, 21 Apr 2008
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Product details

  • Paperback: 131 pages
  • Publisher: Ibis Edition (21 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9659012594
  • ISBN-13: 978-9659012596
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.7 x 17.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 730,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


`Extraordinary ... a tribute to the power of critical thought to register the injustices of history' --Guardian

'Exhilarating ... How often can you say of a harrowing, unquiet book that it makes you wrestle with your soul' --The Times

'A mesmerising and prophetic testimony that unfolds with a magnificent, biblical simplicity' --Independent

`Poetic, anguished and uncompromising ... the lyricism of the writing has been beautifully captured' --Times Literary Supplement

'[A] luminous account ... Khirbet Khizet remains painfully relevant, and the moral questioning lives on'
--Ian McEwan --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

S. YIZHAR was the pen name of Yizhar Smilansky, born in Rehovot, Palestine in 1916. A longtime member of Knesset for the Mapai (Labor) party, he is perhaps most famous as the author of Khirbet Khizeh and the 1,156-page magnum opus, Days of Tziklag, about the 1948 war. After winning the Israel Prize in 1959, he taught education at the Hebrew University for many years and lapsed into literary silence until 1992, when he published the first of a trilogy of autobiographical novels, Preliminaries. He died in 2006. NICHOLAS DE LANGE, who is professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, has translated many Hebrew novels, most recently Preliminaries by S. Yizhar (2007). YAACOB DWECK has previously translated Haim Sabato's The Dawning of the Day (2006). DAVID SHULMAN teaches Sanskrit and other Indian languages at the Hebrew University. He has published numerous books and is the author of Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine (2007). Shulman was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1987. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Format: Paperback
Khirbet Khizeh was first published in 1949, during the aftermath of the Israeli war of independence. In this short novel S. Yizhar, himself an officer during the war, describes the expulsion of Arabs from their village. It is a haunting story, full of coarse language and biblical references, that caused a hefty debate in its home country.

The story is about a small platoon of soldiers, ordered to collect the villagers of Khirbet Khizeh, a small agricultural settlement. All of them have difficulties coping with the situation. One soldier hopes the villagers wil put up a fight, so he will be justified to shoot at them. Another thinks it is plainly wrong what he is doing, but nevertheless carries on as he is ordered. Yizhar, as any good novellist, refrains from judgements, but pushes the facts into the reader's face so he may judge himself. Only in the final chapter, when his protagonist sums up his arguments, does he (unfortunately) leave this stance.

Khirbet Khizeh was not published in English before. It should be read for its political message, by anybody interested in the Middle East, as well as for its beautiful language, sparse but effective characterisation of soldiers and villagers alike, and superb sketches of the hot and dusty landscapes of Palestine.
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Should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in Israel and Palestine. I believe it used to be on the Israeli school curriculum but has been removed, since it does not reflect the narrative the government now favours. And nothing has changed on the ground, as the IDF continues to demolish homes and whole villages both in the occupied territories and in the Negev. The psychological effect on those asked to carry out this evil work is immeasurable, as described in this little gem; the testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence expand on it. With generations of Israelis emotionally damaged by carrying out such orders, no wonder the entire psyche of the country is so twisted.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't think I was going to get into this work, with its sometimes meandering sentences, but made a determined effort and read it in one sitting (120 p) and it's absolutely brilliant.
First published in 1949, it's narrated by a young Israeli soldier out with his platoon, carrying out orders to clear out the eponymous Arab village, remove the occupants and blow up the houses. Yizhar brings the whole situation to life, with vivid descriptions of the Palestinian landscape and of the soldiers' demeanour:
'there was to be no battle for us we were going on an outing.'
But as the remaining Arabs are heartlessly 'cleared' onto 'transports', the reader sees uncomfortable similarities with the awful situation of the Jews themselves in Europe just a few years previously. As the narrator, himself opposed to the situation, observes:
'the Diaspora...Our nation's protest to the world: exile! It had entered me, apparently, with my mother's milk. what, in fact, had we perpetrated here today?'
Very powerful read, and for readers like myself who weren't around in the 40s, very informative. This edition is enhanced by an afterword by David Shulman which explains some of the Biblical references in 'Yizhar's dense web of allusion', and discusses the situation today between settlers and their Palestinian neighbours.
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