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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Academic Spotlight: With Both Feet in the Clouds -- Fantasy in Israeli Literature edited by Danielle Gurevitch

A new feature around these parts!  The Academic Spotlight's purpose will be to draw attention to the wide range of new and old scholarship on genre fiction floating about on the net, from special issues of academic journals, to essay collections, to books, and so on and so forth.  In some cases, I'll offer some thoughts on the work in question -- particularly if I'm familiar with it.  Why am I doing this?  Because I think academia is important, even if it is sometimes inaccessible to the wider public ($75 for an academic book is a lot to ask for; additionally, the writing styles are often not conducive to general reading).

The first entry into this feature is Gurevitch's With Both Feet in the Clouds:  Fantasy in Israeli Literature.  The book came out on the first of January, though I only discovered it today through the World SF blog.

Personally, I don't know much about Israeli genre fiction.  My exposure to writers from that part
of the world has been relatively limited:  Lavie Tidhar and Niv Yaniv are the two I can name off the top of my head.    Still, I'm fascinated by this work because it fills in some of the gaps in the genre/academic community.  The question I have is this:  What other works on Israeli genre fiction area already out there, and how much of it has been translated into English?  If you happen to know something about this particular sub-field, feel free to leave a comment.

You can read a review of the book by Abigail Nussbaum here.

Note:  The title seems to fluctuate between With Both Feet in the Clouds and With Both Feet on the Clouds.  I'm not sure why these differences exist, so you'll excuse the confusion between the title of this post and the title of the book image below.

Why do Israelis dislike fantasy? Put so bluntly, the question appears frivolous. But,in fact, it goes to the deepest sources of Israeli historical identity and literary tradition. Uniquely among developed nations, Israel s origin is in a utopian novel, Theodor Herzl s Altneuland (1902), which predicted the future Jewish state. Jewish writing in the Diaspora has always tended toward the fantastic, the mystical, and the magical. And yet, from its very inception, Israeli literature has been stubbornly realistic. The present volume challenges this stance. Originally published in Hebrew in 2009, it is the first serious, wide-ranging, and theoretically sophisticated exploration of fantasy in Israeli literature and culture. Its contributors jointly attempt to contest the question posed at the beginning: why do Israelis, living in a country whose very existence is predicated on the fulfillment of a utopian dream, distrust fantasy?

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