Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

Over the past month, we’ve intro­duced you to to Stu­art Nadler, Shani Boian­jiu, Ben Lern­er, and Francesca Segal. Today we intro­duce you to Sami Rohr Prize final­ist Asaf Schurr, author of the metafic­tion­al nov­el Mot­ti, which was trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Haaretz wrote of Mot­ti: Those who don’t read Asaf Schurr’s new book are sim­ply los­ing out.” We agree. Below, Asaf writes about writ­ing a book as it needs to be writ­ten, the impor­tance of music while he writes, and some of his favorite books:

What are some of the most chal­leng­ing things about writ­ing fiction?

Get­ting your­self to actu­al­ly do it. Then, mak­ing sure you don’t write the same book over and over again. Then, over­com­ing the urge to take the eas­i­est and fastest way out. Then, wrap­ping it up and get­ting your per­son­al­i­ty back in one piece.

What or who has been your inspi­ra­tion for writ­ing fiction?


Who is your intend­ed audience?

Peo­ple who can read. And are actu­al­ly will­ing. Maybe a bet­ter answer would be Peo­ple who are will­ing to make the effort to read kind­ly and frankly.”

Are you work­ing on any­thing new right now?


What are you read­ing now?

Noga Albal­ach’s The Push (the first book by a young and tal­ent­ed Hebrew author, to the best of my knowl­edge not yet trans­lat­ed to oth­er lan­guages), Sara­m­ago’s Cain (despite my ambiva­lence), Robert Crease’s The Great Equa­tions. And I’ve got a new Hebrew trans­la­tion of Flan­nery O’Con­nor’s Every­thing That Ris­es Must Con­verge wait­ing for me.

Top 5 Favorite Books

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

I’m not cer­tain there actu­al­ly was a moment of such an explic­it deci­sion. Though pub­lish­ing a sec­ond book must have giv­en me a clue.

What is the moun­tain­top for you — how do you define success?

Being adored for the right rea­sons, by the right peo­ple (and for what­ev­er rea­sons by all the rest). More specif­i­cal­ly and per­haps frankly, it’s writ­ing a book as it needs to be writ­ten, mak­ing it take the form it actu­al­ly needs and being the object it actu­al­ly aims to be — as opposed to writ­ing some­thing in order just to please myself or oth­ers. Being able to do that with­out being idio­syn­crat­ic is def­i­nite­ly a suc­cess (also, not starving).

How do you write — what is your pri­vate modus operan­di? What tal­is­mans, rit­u­als, props do you use to assist you?

Find­ing the right music is very impor­tant. (For a while it was A Whis­per in the Noise. Late­ly, it’s most­ly Joan­na New­som.) I’m rather reluc­tant to talk about the rest, which by itself is prob­a­bly part of the answer.

What do you want read­ers to get out of your book?

At the risk of sound­ing ter­ri­bly pre­ten­tious, I wish to make peo­ple bet­ter, myself includ­ed. Not to edu­cate, but to some­how get us back to some­thing that’s lin­guis­ti­cal­ly, emo­tion­al­ly and eth­i­cal­ly fun­da­men­tal and impor­tant. Star­ing each oth­er in the true face, so to speak.

Asaf Schurr was born in Jerusalem in 1976 and has a BA in phi­los­o­phy and the­ater from the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem. At present he is a trans­la­tor and writes lit­er­ary reviews for the Hebrew press. Schurr has received the Bern­stein Prize (2007), the Min­is­ter of Cul­ture Prize (2007) for Amram, and the Prime Min­is­ter’s Prize for Mot­ti (2008).

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.