Tammuz, Benjamin

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TAMMUZ, BENJAMIN (1919–1989), Israeli writer and journalist. A native of Kharkov (Russia), Tammuz went to Ereẓ Israel in 1924. He studied at a yeshivah while attending the Herzlia secondary school in Tel Aviv. Later he worked as a laborer in British army camps, a press censor for the Mandatory government, and a reporter for Mivrak, the *Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel newspaper. He was also a member of the Palmaḥ. Tammuz spent a year living among the Bedouin, an experience which left a deep impression upon him. In 1950–51 he studied art history at the Sorbonne in Paris, further developing his talent as a sculptor. From 1965 he was editor of the weekend literary supplement of *Haaretz, and wrote occasional art criticism. Tammuz was appointed cultural attaché at the Israel embassy in London in 1971.

He gained literary acclaim with his first book, Ḥolot ha-Zahav ("Golden Sands," 1950), a collection of lyrical, impressionistic short stories of childhood, and the stories in Gan Na'ul ("A Garden Enclosed," 1957). In his subsequent works, emotional and even sentimental elements vie with his penchant for satire and social criticism. His picaresque sequence, the trilogy Ḥayyei Elyakum (1965, 1966, 1969) recounts the adventures of an anti-hero, who remains an outsider in Israeli society, follows his beloved to Spain and returns to his homeland only to find himself in an institution for the mentally ill. While the novel Pundako shel Yirmiyahu ("Jeremiah's Inn," 1984) is written in the genre of the grotesque, some of Tammuz's later novels are distinctly symbolic. Thus, for instance, Yaakov (1971) and the novella Ha-Pardes ("The Orchard," 1973), which tells the story of two brothers, sons of a Jewish father and two mothers, one Jewish, the other Muslim. The brothers' struggle over the love of Luna, the beautiful daughter of a Turkish effendi, symbolizes the struggle of Jews and Arabs over the land of Israel. Requiem le-Na'aman (1978) is a satirical dystopia, a family saga which stands for the hopes and disillusionment in Israel. The founder of the Abramson dynasty represents the revolutionary change in Jewish history, as he leaves the Diaspora behind and settles in Palestine as an ardent believer in Zionism. His son, Na'aman, a sensitive musician, points to the decadent disintegration of the family, as he chooses to live in France and goes mad. Grandson Elyakum is killed in the War of Independence while great-granddaughter Bella-Yaffah loses her mind. Minotaur (1980) is the intriguing story of Alexander Abramov's obsessive, platonic love for Thea, an embodiment of the ideal of beauty and of European culture. Many of Tammuz's prose works have been translated into English, among them: A Castle in Spain (1973), Minotaur (1981; 1982), Requiem for Naaman (1982), The Orchard (1984), and A Rare Cure (1981). Information about translations is available at the ithl website at www.ithl.org.il.

add. bibliography:

A. Feinberg, "Mishlei Bakbukim," in: Al ha-Mishmar (December 12, 1975); G. Ramras-Rauch, "Shayyakhut le-lo Hizdahut," in: Shedemot, 64 (1977), 66–69; Y. Ben Yosef, "B. Tammuz," in: Turim, 9–10 (1979), 59–63; B. Ziffer, in: Haaretz (August 22, 1980); O. Bartana, in: Davar (October 24, 1980); Y. Oren, in: Yedioth Aharonoth (September 19, 1980); A. Feinberg, "Minotaur," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 6 (1981), 3–4; Y. Barzilai, Mi-Kana'aniyyut le-Kosmopolitiyyut, in: Hadoar, 61:16 (1982), 244–47; R-S. Sirat, "La Société israélienne après la guerre de Kippour, B. Tammuz 'Requiem le-Naaman'," in: Permanences et mutations dans la société israélienne (1996), 181–88; H. Zakai, "Ḥayyei Elyakum," in: Mi-Bayit u-mi-ba-Ḥuẓ (1996), 59–71; G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit (1998), 108–19.

[Gitta (Aszkenazy) Avinor /

Anat Feinberg (2nd ed.)]