Cultural Crossoads of the Levant

From The New York Times:

Donadio190 This spring, Ibis published one of its most controversial books yet, the first English translation of “Khirbet Khizeh,” a novella by S. Yizhar, the pen name of Yizhar Smilansky, a noted Israeli writer and longtime Knesset member. Originally published in 1949, one year after the founding of Israel, the book tells of the violent evacuation of Palestinian village by a Jewish unit in the 1948 war of independence. Yizhar, who died in 2006, was born in 1916 and served as an intelligence officer in the 1948 war. Although the novella was a best-seller in Israel when it first appeared and has been on the Israeli high school curriculum since 1964, “Khirbet Khizeh” has never been well known outside Israel. The new Ibis edition was translated by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck.

Set in and around a quiet Palestinian village, the fictional Khirbet Khizeh of the title, the novella is written in a slow, meditative style that weaves together biblical allusions with contemporary slang. At first, the soldiers wait for a command. “No one knows how to wait like soldiers,” Yizhar writes. “There is the ruthlessly long waiting, the nervous anxious waiting, … the tedious waiting, that consumes and burns everything.” When the order comes, the unit begins shelling. The villagers flee. The book ends with the cri de coeur of the young soldier narrator. “This was what exile looked like,” he thinks out loud, watching the Palestinians leaving. “I had never been in the diaspora. I had never known what it was like, but people had spoken to me, told me, taught me, and repeatedly recited to me, from every direction … exile. … What, in fact, had we perpetrated here today?”

More here.