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Ben-Ner, Yitzhak 1937-

BEN-NER, Yitzhak 1937-

PERSONAL: Born July 3, 1937, in Afula, Israel. Education: Attended Tel Aviv University.

ADDRESSES: HomeTel Aviv, Israel. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Lynne Rienner, 1800 30th St., Ste. 314, Boulder, CO 80301.

CAREER: Writer, journalist, and film critic.

AWARDS, HONORS: Agnon-Jerusalem prize, 1981; Berenstein prize; Ramat Gan municipal literary prize.

WRITINGS:

Be-'Ikvot Mav'ir Ha-Sadot (for children; title means "On the Trail of the Firebug"), illustrated by Nahum Gutman, Alef (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1966.

Ha'Ish Me-Sham (novel), 'Am 'Oved (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1967, translated by Dorothea Shefer as The Man from There, Sabra Books (New York, NY), 1970.

Sheki'ah Kefarit: Sipurim, 'Am 'Oved (Jerusalem, Israel), 1976, translated by Robert Whitehill as Rustic Sunset and Other Stories, Lynne Rienner (Boulder, CO), 1998.

Kishonah: 'Alitot A-tah-Ya'akov ve-Havurato (for children; title means "Kishona: Children of the River"), illustrated by Avner Katz, 'Am 'Oved (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1978.

(With Hillel Barzel) Megamot Be-Siporet Ha-Hoveh: Ha-Sipur He Havui: Sipurim ve-Novelot (title means "Major Trends in Contemporary Hebrew Prose"), Yahdav ba-shitfuf Misrad ha-hinukh vehatarbut (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1979.

Ahare Ha-Geshem: Sheloshah Sipurimu (short stories; main title means "After the Rain"), Yahdav bashitfuf Misrad ha-hinukh vehatarbut (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1979.

Yedidi 'Imanu'el Va-Ani (for children; title means "My Friend Emmanuel and Me"), illustrated by 'Anat Mayevski, Kefer (Jerusalem, Israel), 1980.

Erets Rehokah: Roman be-Sipurim (novel; main title means "A Distant Land"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1981.

Protokol (novel), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1982.

Davar Aher, Zemorah, Bitan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1986.

Mal-akhim Ba'im (novel; title means "The Angels Are Coming"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1987.

Ta'tu'on, 'Am 'Oved (Jerusalem, Israel), 1989.

Ug'ins: Kalba, Lo Mikhnasayim, illustrated by Yosi Abulafyah, Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1991.

Jeans (for children), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1991.

Boker Shel Shotim (title means "Morning of Fools"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1992.

(Editor) Sipurim (short stories), Kemerah Obskurah, be ha-Sefer le-Amanut (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1993.

Dubim Va-Ya'ar (title means "Bears and a Forest"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1995.

Mitham Oyev (novel; title means "Enemy Scope"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1997.

'Ir Miklat (novel; title means "City of Refuge"), 'Am 'Oved (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2000.

Contributor of short stories and articles to periodicals, including Haaretz; contributor to anthology The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories, edited by Glenda Abramson.

Ben-Ner's works have been translated into Japanese, French, Chinese, Danish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

ADAPTATIONS: Ta'tu'on was adapted as a play produced in Tel Aviv, Israel, and recorded on video for Te-atron ha-Kameri (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1990; the movie Atalia, with screenplay by Akiva Teve and Michal Bat-Adam, was based on a story by Ben-Ner, Ergo Media (Teaneck, NJ), 1992; Erets Rehokah: Roman be-Sipurim was adapted as a play, 1992; Mitham Oyev was adapted as a television miniseries, directed by Amnon Rubinstein, 1999; Uri Muri, produced at the Cameri Theater, 1999, was based on a work by Ben-Ner; Boker Shel Shotim was adapted as a play.

SIDELIGHTS: An author of Hebrew short stories and novels for both adults and children, Yitzhak Ben-Ner primarily writes about contemporary Israeli life. For example, in the 1981 collection of stories, Erets Rehokah: Roman be-Sipurim, he uses monologues to tell about life in Israel between 1977 and 1979. Through six characters, Ben-Ner paints a picture of a troubled and slightly degenerate society.

In his 1982 novel, Protokol, Ben-Ner writes about Palestine in the early 1920s, a time of growing ideological, social, and political change. The growing unrest resulted, in part, from the Russian revolution and the immigration of Russian Jews to Palestine. The novel's unnamed protagonist is part of a group working to establish a new political regime and social order. When he finds his lover dead, he becomes a double agent for the Soviet Union and works to avenge his lover's murder at the hands of a charismatic leader of a revolutionary cell. "However it is not the external narrative with its melodramatic turns that seems to be the author's purpose," wrote Dov Varti in World Literature Today. "The work is more a critique of the futility of revolutionary idealism."

Ben-Ner creates a future-world scenario in his 1987 novel, Mal-akhim Ba'im, in which the Israeli survivors of a nuclear holocaust set up a state divided in two: one area is inhabited only by Orthodox Jews, while the other contains only secular Jews. With this premise in place, the author proceeds to comment on such subjects as attitudes toward sex, the computer revolution, and messianism, all of which are relevant in today's modern Israeli culture. Writing in Forward, Shalom Goldman observed that the language used in each sector of this imaginary state exhibits distinct differences. "It is one of the novel's great achievements," said Goldman, "that it imagines and reproduces these postmodern glosses on Israeli speech with wit and energy."

Ben-Ner's novel Mitham Oyev centers around a plot to conduct political assassinations. The novel's hero, Shilo Slutzky, is wracked by guilt because he could not prevent the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel, to whom he had been assigned as a bodyguard. Slutzky, who once lived in the West Bank, infiltrates the ranks of an organization in a West Bank settlement but soon finds himself sympathizing with the people there. The novel works on two levels: as a suspense story and as a commentary on the political and moral issues confronting Israeli society.

As with many authors who write in Hebrew, Ben-Ner's fiction is largely unknown in the United States. In 1998 Sheki'ah Kefarit: Sipurim was translated and published as Rustic Sunset and Other Stories. The stories feature characters who lead unhappy and sometimes even tortured lives. In the story "Cinema," for example, Ben-Ner writes about a young boy and his relationship with an uncle who escapes from life by going to the movies as much as he can. "A Tale of Two Brothers" focuses on a man who, at the death of his brother, begins to believe that his entire heritage is disappearing. "Sleepless nights, recurrent dreams, and nightmares plague Ben-Ner's major characters," wrote Leslie Cohen in a World Literature Today review of Rustic Sunset, and Other Stories "and any significant decision that his usually indecisive protagonists make is regretted by them for the rest of their lives." While the character's anguish is often depressing, Cohen pointed out that "the author's remarkable control of language and his absence of sentimentality" make the stories "bearable" for the reader. Cohen also called Ben-Ner's writing style "highly descriptive" and noted that "his sensitive handling of colloquial conversation portrays social class, level of intelligence, personality, and mood better than any string of adjectives."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 15, 1990, review of Ta'tu'on, p. 1961.

Forward, December 22, 1995, Shalom Goldman, "Talk of Civil War Is Nothing New in Israeli Novels," p. 9.

Jerusalem Report, August 13, 1992, Rochelle Furstenberg, "Unhappy Families Are Wildly Different," p. 46.

World Literature Today, summer, 1982, A. Feinberg, review of A Distant Land, p. 567; spring, 1984, Dov Vardi, review of Protokol, p. 320; winter, 1999, Leslie Cohen, review of Rustic Sunset and Other Stories, p. 203.

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