Khirbet Khizeh | Granta

  • Published: 03/02/2011
  • ISBN: 9781847084255
  • Granta Books
  • 128 pages

Khirbet Khizeh

S.Yizhar

Translated by Yaacob Dweck, Nicholas de Lange

This 1949 novella about the violent expulsion of Palestinian villagers by the Israeli army has long been considered a modern Hebrew masterpiece, and it has also given rise to fierce controversy over the years. Published just months after the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Khirbet Khizeh (the ‘kh’ pronounced like the ‘ch’ in ‘Bach’) was an immediate sensation when it first appeared. Thousands of Israeli Jews rushed to read it, the critics began to argue about it, and a Palestinian journalist in Nablus described it as a sign that the Israeli army had a conscience and that peace was possible. Since then, the book has continued to challenge and disturb. The various debates it has prompted would themselves make Khirbet Khizeh worth reading, but the novella is much more than a vital historical document: it is also a great work of art. Yizhar’s haunting, lyrical style and charged registration of the landscape are in many ways as startling as his wrenchingly honest view of one of Israel’s defining moments. Despite its international reputation, this is the first UK publication of Khirbet Khizeh.

It's subject is so painful, its execution so charged, so wildly beautiful, its moral ambivalence so incendiary and eloquent that one has to put it down every few pages ... the mighty rush of its prose, with its creative syntax, its long, fibrous sentences, its combination of impassioned, unbridled lyricism and colloquial speech, is exhilarating ... How often can you say of a harrowing, unquiet book that it makes you wrestle with your soul

Neel Mukherjee, The Times

The luminous account of the clearing of an Arab village during the'48 war -- and of a protest that never quite leaves the throat of its narrator as the houses are demolished and the villagers driven from their land. It is a tribute to an open society that this novella was for many years required reading for Israeli schoolchildren. Khirbet Khizet remains painfully relevant, and the moral questioning lives on.

Ian McEwan, Jerusalem Prize Acceptance Speech

Yizhar's extraordinary tale narrates the need, and the price, of remembering

Jacqueline Rose

The Author

S. Yizhar was the pen-name of Yizhar Smilansky, born in Rehovot, Palestine, in 1916. A long-time member of Knesset for the Mapai (Labor) Party, he is perhaps most famous as the author of Khirbet Khizeh and for his magnum opus, Days of Tziklag, about the 1948 war. After winning the Israel Prize in 1959, he taught education at the Hebrew University for many years and lapsed into literary silence until 1992, when he published the first of a trilogy of autobiographical novels, Preliminaries. He died in 2006.

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The Translator

Yaacob Dweck is Associate Professor of History and the Program in Judaic Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of The Scandal of Kabbalah.

More about the translator →

The Translator

Yaacob Dweck is Associate Professor of History and the Program in Judaic Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of The Scandal of Kabbalah.

More about the translator →