This interesting mixed bag of contemporary (here called modern) Hebrew literature represents the effort of Matthew Miller, publisher of The Toby Press, working in conjunction with the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, to bring out another series of MHL, directed at readers outside Israel. The first volume in the new series of this well – established publication contains a lively and freely — even coarsely— expressive sampling of what has been happening in the literary arts and daily living itself in Israel (mostly). Included here are tributes to Yossel Birstein, a prolific writer in Hebrew and Yiddish, who died in 2003; excerpts from Hebrew novels recently published; a longer story by Yoav Alvin; an essay by Gershon Shaked (which compares Amos Oz’s biography with the life stories of Haim Gouri, Yoram Kaniuk, and Aharon Appelfeld); poetry; and book reviews.
The fiction selections overall paint colorful, intriguing pictures of Israeli life. Their literary quality testifies to the rich, racy, nuanced version of our ancient tongue, reminding us that Jews anywhere should not be expected to be angels or paragons. Yoav Alvin’s “My Brother Me” reveals a dysfunctional family with terrible secrets, living on the margin of decency and survival. Yoram Kaniuk’s “I Did It My Way” is a vignette about bohemian living in (yes) the Village and thereabouts — a “cubist” equivalent of artists’ destabilized social patterning as a subculture in society. But these examples are teaser samplings. Miller’s entire collection is richly rewarding.