Laor, Yitzhak 1948-
LAOR, Yitzhak 1948-
PERSONAL: Born 1948, in Pardes Hannah, Israel. Education: Studied theater and literature at Tel Aviv University.
CAREER: Poet, playwright, and novelist. Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, teacher of literature. Haaretz, newspaper journalist. Lectures throughout Israel.
AWARDS, HONORS: Kugel Prize, 1982; Bernstein Poetry Prize, 1992, for A Night in a Foreign Hotel; Literary Award of Israel, 1994, for Food Fit for a King; Moses Prize for Literature, for Ve-'im ruhi geviyate; Prime Minister's Prize for Poetry, 1990 (never received).
Nesi'ah: shirim (title means "Going Away"), Sifriyat po'alim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1982.
To Leave, Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1982.
Rak ha-guf zokher, Sifrey Adam (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1985.
The Body Only Remembers, Sifrey Adam (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1985.
Poems in the Valley of Iron, Am Oved (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1990.
A Night in a Foreign Hotel, ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1992.
You will Love Many Days, ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad/Siman Kriah (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1996.
Ke-ayin: shirim (title means "Poems"; audio recording), ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1999.
Collected Poems 1974-1992, ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2002.
Mi-huts la-gader (title means "Outside the Fence"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1981.
Anu kotvim otakh modedet: masot 'al sifrut Yi'sre'elit (title means "Narratives with No Natives"), ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1995.
Ba-aviv, ahare ha-milu'im (title means "Early Stories"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 2000.
Things That Are Better (not) Kept Silent: Essays onCulture and Politics, Babel (Tel Avivi, Israel), 2002.
'Am, ma'akhal melakhim (novel; title means "The People, Food Fit for a King"), ha-Kibuts hame'uhad/Siman Kriah (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1993.
Ephraim Goes Back to the Army (play), Timon, 1987.
Ve-'im ruhi geviyate (novel; title means "And with My Spirit, My Corpse"), ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1998.
Author's poetry has been translated into Dutch, Arabic, French, German, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, English, Russian, and Spanish.
SIDELIGHTS: By anyone's account, writer Yitzhak Laor is a leftwing activist. His work reflects his disdain for his own country's soldiers and the Palestinian-Israeli war in general. Laor was one of the first Israelis to be jailed for refusing to serve in occupied Palestinian territories. In 1985, his play Ephraim Goes Back to the Army was banned by the censorship for "defaming the army." Following his appeal to the high court, the ban was lifted and the censorship on theatres was abolished.
Laor explained his dismay at the state of things in Israel to Middle East Correspondent Matthew McAllester in an interview for Newsday.com. "I don't feel like poetry matters. Those who read poetry don't do the war."
While Laor may feel as though his work makes no difference, he has a publishing history that proves otherwise. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, and his work has been translated into ten languages. Laor has been censored by Israeli authorities because of his persistent and aggressive condemnation of the conflict and war in the Middle East.
In "The Tears of Zion," an article he wrote for the New Left Review, Laor attacks intellectuals of the Zionist Left as playing a crucial role in sustaining the oppression of Palestinian Arabs. His article opens: "Public opinion in Europe and America is principally informed about developments within Israel by a select group of spokesmen, whose voices are heard over and over again. It represents itself as an enlightened opposition to mainstream prejudices, critical of much in Israeli political and intellectual life from a progressive point of view. The reality is quite different."
In an attempt to rouse Western Europe's population to demand a halt to the violence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Laor wrote After Jenin, an essay published in the London Review of Books. In it, he condemns the Israel Defense Force for its deliberate waging of war, calling its members "ruthless." He denounces Israelis for their eagerness to portray themselves as victims. "Israelis look to punish anyone who undermines our image of ourselves as victims. Nobody is allowed to take this image from us, especially not in the context of the war with the Palestinians, who are waging a war on 'our home'—that is, their 'non-home.' . . . Why? Because this is the way the world should see us, rising from the ashes."
Laor closes his essay with a plea. "Please don't shrug your shoulders. The one thing that might help to destroy the consensus in Israel is pressure from Western Europe, on which the Israeli elite is dependent in so many ways."
Laor also writes for Ha-aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature,http://www.ithl.org.il/ (July 13, 2002), bibliography of author.
Literature of Israel,http://www.israel.org.br/israel/ (May 7, 2002), profile of author, with select bibliography.
London Review of Books Online,http://www.lrb.co.uk/ (May 23, 2002), Yitzhak Laor, "After Jenin."
Luna,http://www.home.luna.nl/ (May 7, 2002), "Poetry International."
New Left Review Online,http://www.newleftreview.net/ (July-August, 2001), Yitzhak Laor, "The Tears of Zion."
Newsday.com,http://www.newsday.com/ (May 28, 2002), Matthew McAllester, "Standing up in Poetic Protest."