This page focuses on contemporary Hebrew speculative fiction that needs to be translated and published in English. Translators, publishers, editors: you know what to do!
Ha-kavua ha-yechidi (The Unswitchable) by Yoav Blum (Keter)
Winner of the Geffen Award, 2017
Ha-kavua ha-yechidi “imagines the invention and proliferation of bracelets that allow the wearer to “switch”: to swap consciousnesses with other bracelet wearers by dialing them up as if on a phone. The technology finds all sorts of applications, from the practical to the illicit…The novel, then, reflects uncertainty about identity in our new virtual world. The protagonist is a private eye named Dan Arbel, who is the sole “unswitchable,” the only person for whom the bracelets don’t work….Though we may not need the novel’s reminders that the rush of social media can corrode the self, Arbel’s outsider standpoint makes him sensitive to more enduring technologies for escaping and discovering our true identities: love and religion.”- Michael Weingrad, Jewish Review of Books
Ha-orchim (The Guests) by Ofir Touché Gafla (Keter)
Ha-orchim “features a private-eye protagonist in a world in which people switch bodies…[but portrays this] not as a slick technological innovation but as a universal trauma. The novel opens five years after what has come to be called “The Metamorphosis,” an event in which nearly all adults on the planet wake up to find themselves transformed in their beds into the physical form of the person they hate most…Gafla, though, is less interested in the implications of this cosmic prank than he is in what he depicts as humanity’s primary response to it: an obsessive preservation of their former identities, through journals, websites, and electronic archives.” – Michael Weingrad, Jewish Review of Books
Lachatsot nahar pa’amayim (Crossing a River Twice) by Yoav Avni (Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir)
“Itamar Goren, who has abandoned his job in high-tech and gone to work for yet another private investigator in Tel Aviv, might even be considered stuck on himself. Largely cut off from social interactions with anyone other than his pet goldfish, he prefers to avoid human entanglements and instead spends his free time contemplating his beloved Yarkon, the river that meanders through north Tel Aviv. Things get complicated when Itamar’s boss goes missing and the physically imposing thug to whom he was in debt holds Itamar responsible for the owed shekels. Meanwhile, the Yarkon is invaded by foreboding deep-sea creatures whose presence drives the action of the book. While unraveling these mysteries, Itamar finds a partner in the charming Nufar, a woman who possesses the intuition and emotional intelligence he lacks, and they are joined by Ian Banks, an elderly Englishman in search of the Loch Ness monster…Itamar’s isolation and aimlessness seem to pose the question of whether the secular, high-tech face of Israel possesses the emotional and spiritual resources—the sense of magic—on which to base a thriving culture. Is there room enough in the Yarkon for sea monsters? Is being the start-up nation enough reason to start up each day?”- Michael Weingrad, Jewish Review of Books
Herzl amar (Herzl Spoke) by Yoav Avni (2011)
Winner of the Geffen Award, 2012
“Avni meditates on the nature of Israel by depicting an alternate history in which the Jewish state was founded, as Theodor Herzl briefly proposed, in Africa.”- Michael Weingrad, Jewish Review of Books
Shadrach by Shimon Adaf (Resling, 2017)
“Shadrach…cuts back and forth between an Israel of the far future, in which the main character is a teenager named Shadrach, and the early 1980s of Adaf’s childhood, in which the main character is a boy named Hanania…Apart from the domed city of New Sderot, Israel has been decimated by a “nano-gas” attack (possibly launched by America) that has turned its citizens into bloodthirsty zombies. In the resulting chaos, a fascistic faction known as the Guardians of Zion seizes power in collusion with the Americans. Adaf is not the first left-wing Israeli writer to give vent to his political nightmares in dystopian fiction. Here he describes an Israel that calls itself Zionist and is awash in Jewish symbols but which no longer possesses knowledge of the Jewish sources and history from which these names and symbols derive…In trying again and again to apprehend an elusive past, Adaf produces poems disguised as novels. The futuristic technology of Shadrach—self-contained “evolution bubbles” and time-jumps into the minds of Sderot teenagers—seems above all an attempt to use sci-fi as a kind of objective correlative for his search for lost time.” – Michael Weingrad, Jewish Review of Books
The Leviathan of Babylon (Leviathan series, Book 1) by Hagar Yanai (Keter, 2006)
Winner of the 2007 Geffen Award for Best Original Hebrew Fantasy
The first in a fantasy trilogy. The Leviathan of Babylon follows the adventures of Jonathan Margolis and his sister Ella, who enter a parallel world, the Empire of Babylon, ruled by the Guild of Hashdarpans – brutal physician-priests who fear the rise of the Leviathan, son of the Abyss. The book draws inspiration from Jewish, Babylonian and Middle-Eastern mythology.
The Water Between the Worlds (Leviathan series, Book 2) by Hagar Yanai (Keter, 2008)
Winner of the 2008 Geffen Award for Best Original Hebrew Fantasy
Describes the beginning of the great battle for the Empire of Babylon. The four protagonists from the first book, Jonathan and Ella Margolis, Hillel Ben-Shahar, and Princess Nin-Urmuz, are faced with even more difficult challenges and ordeals.
Pundako shel Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah’s Inn) by Binyamin Tammuz
Involves an Ultra-Orthodox takeover of a future Israel, a country “dominated by an array of warring fundamentalist rabbinical courts headquartered in a physically, religiously, and socially fragmented Jerusalem. At once hilarious and horrifying, the book is written as a pastiche of rabbinical parables.” – “Introduction,” Zion’s Fiction
HaMal’achim Bat’im (The Angels are Coming) by Yitzhak Ben-Ner
“Ben-Ner depicts a Jewish state buckling under the boot of a fundamentalist government that enforces its will by directing pogroms against the secular residents of Tel Aviv and other coastal environs. The fantastic tropes incorporated into the text include a pair of imaginary dwarves; a policewoman of extraterrestrial origin; a protagonist who emerges from a severe beating with new healing powers brought on by the slow appearance on his forehead of a blue Star of David; a country no longer threatened by Arab animosity, but which has subsequently turned upon itself; and a high-tech sector that colludes with or deliberately ignores the centrifugal forces tearing society apart.” – “Introduction,” Zion’s Fiction