Grossman, David

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Nationality: Israeli. Born: Jerusalem, 25 January 1954. Education: Hebrew University, B.A. in philosophy and theater 1976. Family: Married Michal; two sons. Career: Writer. Also worked as a journalist, Kol Israel (Israeli Radio); contributor to periodicals, including Koteret Rashit.Awards: Ministry of Education prize for children's literature (Israel), 1983, for Du-krav; Prime Minister's prize for Hebrew literature, 1984; Israeli Publisher's Association prize for best novel, 1985, for Hiyukh ha-gedi; Vallombrosa prize (Italy), 1989; Nelly Sachs prize (Germany), 1992. Agent: Deborah Harris, The Harris/Elon Agency, P.O. Box 4143, Jerusalem 91041, Israel.



Hiyukh ha-gedi. 1983; as The Smile of the Lamb, 1990.

'Ayen 'erekh-ahavah. 1986; as See Under: Love, 1989.

Sefer hadikduk hapnimi. 1992; as The Book of Internal Grammar, 1994.

Yesh yeladim zig-zag. 1994; as The Zigzag Kid, 1997.

She-tihi li ha-sakin. 1998; as Be My Knife, 2002.

Short Stories

Ratz [The Jogger]. 1983..


Gan Riki: Mahazeh bi-shete ma 'arakhot. 1988; as Riki's Kindergarten.


Ha-Zeman ha-tsahov (nonfiction). 1987; as The Yellow Wind, 1988.

Hanochachim hanifkadim (nonfiction). 1992; as Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel, 1993.

Other (for children)

Du-krav. 1984; as Duel, 1998.

Itamar metayel 'al kirot. 1986.

Ach chadash l'gamrei. 1986.

Itamar pogesh arnav. 1988.

Itamar mikhtav. 1988.

Itamar ye 'koval ha 'ksamin ha 'shachor. 1992.

Sefer ha-siim shel Fozz. 1994.

Hayo haytem shnei kofim. 1996.

Misheu larutz ito. 2000.


Critical Studies:

"Interview with David Grossman" by Elena Lappin, in Jewish Quarterly, 41(4), Winter 1994, p. 26; The Project of Expression in Modernist Literature and Music: David Fogel, Arnold Schoenberg, David Grossman (dissertation) by Eric Stephen Zakim, University of California, Berkeley, 1996; "David Grossman: Language and Self-Discovery" by Kurt Kreiler, in World Press Review, 47 (11), 2000, p. 13; "Assassinations: Opposing Views by Amos Oz and David Grossman," in Time, 20 September 2001.

* * *

Born in Jerusalem in 1954 to working-class parents, David Grossman is the preeminent Joseph figure to the three generations of Israeli writers preceding him. As lineal heir to a modernist Hebrew literary tradition as well as self-conscious sojourner in the "Egypt" of international postmodernism, he has assumed the mantle of state-generation forebears like Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua , while at the same time pushing Israeli literature metaphorically hutz l'aretz, beyond the established borders of homeland. His ascendancy is notable as much for its celerity as its diversity, his output being a many-colored coat. After a first, unremarkable collection of short fiction, The Jogger, the novels The Smile of the Lamb, See Under: Love, The Book of Intimate Grammar, The Zigzag Kid, and Be My Knife followed in quick succession to increasing acclaim.

Soon after it was translated, See Under: Love (1989) was classed by reviewers with William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury,Gunter Grass 's The Tim Drum, Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children. Absent the always-invidious nature of such comparisons, what prompts them in this case is the sheer prodigality of Grossman's world making. Through a fierce inventiveness and their fidelity to a preadult world of interior consciousness, See Under: Love, The Book of Intimate Grammar (1994), and The Zigzag Kid (1997) stake the kind of Joycean claims for which the only analogue (and precedent) in modern Jewish literature is the American Henry Roth's Call It Sleep. Not surprisingly perhaps, Grossman has also penned 10 books of children's fiction and as a child himself acted on Israeli radio, with a knack for mimicry.

Thus beyond an almost obligatory play with narrative form (a postmodern given), like Roth, Grossman has an astonishing ear for dialect and register, from the anachronistic "formulation" Hebrew at the end of See Under: Love to the macaronics of the early 1960s immigrant Israelis' Yiddish-Polish and Hebrew vernacular in The Book of Intimate Grammar. Indeed it is in his Bakhtinian generosity to characters' idiolects—what might be called an ethic of voice—that Grossman chiefly excels, rivaling the elder Yehoshua's achievement in Mr. Mani. The Smile of the Lamb (1990), Grossman's first novel, while it may overreach, sets the precedent for vocally differentiated speech style and mental landscapes of the "other" by alternating four narratives in four voices: a Sephardi, a Polish survivor, a female psychotherapist, and an iconic Arab named Khilmi who converses with children in an "infant tongue."

If the figure of Khilmi is something of an allegorical misfire—Irving Howe called him a heavy-handed Karataev to the novel's Pierre Bezhukhov—the novel itself takes on the freighted and immediately contemporary matter of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Similarly See Under: Love, for all its sui generis formal daring, takes on two standing taboos in Israeli culture: the Holocaust as the representational property of its survivors and their legatees (Grossman is neither), and as material fact not scrim for elaborate fictionalization. Yet both these novels connect Grossman with Israeli authors of an earlier generation like Oz and Yehoshua as well as writers of many a contemporary national literature in their resolute foregrounding of collective experience. Where The Smile of the Lamb is a young novelist's first book and See Under: Love is held hostage to its composite structure and occasional ostentation, The Book of Intimate Grammar signifies that rare triumph, not a forging of a national conscience yet created, but a hammering of it as already owned and incandescent, in a tense its main character, Aron, calls "the present continuous." Its setting is the Six-Day War of 1967, yet its thrust is deeply cultural rather than political critique in an obvious sense, which attests to Grossman's distinctive brand of humanism.

In the course of writing fiction Grossman also published The Yellow Wind (1988) and Sleeping on a Wire (1993), interviews with, respectively, West Bank Palestinians and settlers, and Arab Israelis. Tapping into his journalistic roots (he has hosted an early-morning radio show for many years) and capitalizing on his knowledge of Arabic, these books manifest Grossman's equally important public persona as organic intellectual, one who hammers at the forge of his nation's conscience in clear and indeed controversial view. See Under: Love, however, remains Grossman's towering accomplishment thus far, not only for its purely novelistic virtues but because of its fatidic weight and its therapeutic heralding of his countrymen and women into a lieu de mémoire —the place of the Shoah in Israel's psychocultural life—that it had hitherto either repressed or held at a near distance. In keeping with the model of the biblical Joseph, Grossman's novel ensures that the bones of an abandoned generation will be brought back to the Land of Israel to be remembered and claimed anew.

—Adam Zachary Newton

See the essay on See Under: Love.

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Grossman, David

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