Sarna, Igal 1952-
SARNA, Igal 1952-
PERSONAL: Born 1952; married; two children. Education: University of Iowa International Writing Program, graduated 1998.
CAREER: Journalist. Yediot Aharonot, Israel, reporter. Military service: Israeli Army; served as tank commander in Yom Kippur War, 1973.
MEMBER: Peace Now (founding member).
AWARDS, HONORS: IBM Tolerance Prize.
Yonah Valakh: biyografyah (title means "Biography of Yona Wallach"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1993.
Tsayad ha-zikaron (title means "Memory Hunter"), 'Am 'oved (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1997.
Makom shel osher, Yediot Aharonot (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2000, translation by Haim Watzman published as The Man Who Fell into a Puddle: Israeli Lives, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author of numerous articles for newspaper Yediot Aharonot.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A collection of stories about the people living in the West Bank.
SIDELIGHTS: Igal Sarna, a leading Israeli investigative reporter who writes for one of Israel's largest daily newspapers, is known for his ability to convey the often tragic impact of major events on ordinary individuals. His first book to be published in English, The Man Who Fell into a Puddle: Israeli Lives, is a collection of fourteen previously published newspapers columns for Tel Aviv's daily Yediot Aharonot. Sarna chose these specific columns, wrote Rachel Zuckerman in Aufbau, because he thought that they "best captured how Israelis have been affected by the building of modern Israel." He refers to his writing as literary nonfiction and, according to Zuckerman, had this collection published in order to challenge "the American perception of Israel and Israelis." Sarna told Zuckerman that "Israel is viewed as a success story by the outside world. … ButIwas always attracted to the dark side of that reality—the people who fell through the cracks, the poor, the mentally ill. These stories are often unknown to foreigners."
Each of the fourteen pieces in the book focuses on a particular individual: a taxi driver originally from Leningrad who takes his own life after crashing his cab; a paratrooper who was raised as an orphan and later discovers his Arab mother; a Bedouin boy who kills his own father. As Sarna told Zuckerman, "I just want to speak for the common people, especially when they are under tremendous pressure. I would like this voice to be heard."
One of the more personal stories in this collection concerns Ze'ev Izbitzky, a childhood friend of Sarna as well as the son of Holocaust survivors. As an adult, Ze'ev decided to leave Israel and went to the United States, where, apparently distressed by loneliness and poverty, he eventually committed suicide in New York City. A personal involvement with each story, Sarna told Zuckerman, was an important criterion in selecting the pieces that appeared in the book.
The Man Who Fell into a Puddle received admiring reviews. A contributor to Publishers Weekly described its portraits as "spare" and "wistful," and concluded that they create a complex picture of Israeli society. The reviewer found the story of Ze'ev to be among the most moving in the entire collection. A writer for Kirkus Reviews hailed the book as "bleak, blistering, [and] beautiful." In the Times Literary Supplement Caroline Moorehead compared Sarna to writer Ryszard Kapuscinski. "Though full of anguish and barely relieved sadness," she wrote, "this is a marvelous book."
Sarna spends most of his time in Israel, most recently on the West Bank, an experience he planned to capture in his next book. A founder of the Peace Now movement, he travels to other countries, often fielding questions about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2002, George Cohen, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle, p. 195.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle, p. 1288.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Nader Entessar, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle, p. 116.
Publishers Weekly, September 16, 2002, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle, pp. 56-57.
Times Literary Supplement, January 8, 2003, Caroline Moorehead, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle.
Aufbau,http://www.aufbauonline.com/ (November 28, 2002), Rachel Zuckerman, "An Unofficial History of Israel."*