Ruby Namdar’s Cosmic and Frightening Novel ‘The Ruined House’ – Tablet Magazine

In literature, as in so many other ways, American Jews and Israeli Jews live in separate worlds. American Jewish readers who are dependent on translation to read Hebrew fiction are mainly limited to a few marquee names: Grossman, Oz, Keret. Small presses, including academic and Jewish publishers, make an important contribution by bringing lesser-known Israeli writers into English, such as Gail Hareven and Zeruya Shalev. But the view of Israeli literature from New York bears little resemblance to the view from Tel Aviv. And the same is true the other way around, even though English is more accessible to Israelis than Hebrew is to Americans. The American Jewish canon—Roth, Bellow, Malamud, Ozick—is surprisingly little known in Israel, and more than one Israeli reader has described coming to these books as a revelation.

The Ruined House, the newly translated novel by Ruby Namdar, is the rare book to have a foot in both literary cultures. That is because Namdar, a native Israeli who writes in Hebrew, is also a resident of New York City, where the book is set. When The Ruined House was published in Israel in 2013, it was the first novel written by an expatriate to win the Sapir Prize, Israel’s equivalent of the Pulitzer. Subsequently, the prize rules were changed to prevent any writer outside Israel from winning again—an act of cultural defensiveness that bespeaks a narrow view of what the Hebrew language can do, and who it is for. What the Jewish literary world needs is surely more communication between cultures, rather than less.

That is exactly what Namdar accomplishes in this cosmic and frightening book. A reader who picks up The Ruined House might take it, at first, for a work by an American author. Indeed, in outline it sounds deceptively similar to books like Herzog and The Anatomy Lesson, in which a male Jewish intellectual undergoes a midlife crisis. But in Namdar’s hands, this classic trope is fascinatingly estranged. Indeed, Namdar…

Article Source…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *