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Finding Work in Israeli Fiction

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Skyline Room

Abstract

If 50s Israeli literary critics still treated work and labor as matters whose representation is worth addressing, their 60s “New Wave” counterparts—Gershon Shaked, Dan Miron, and others—had turned away from work and labor as critical themes. The latter were considered by the young 60s critics as popular topics of literary criticism beholden to the “Zionist metanarrative”, to use Shaked’s term. As a consequence, the study of the representation of work (and of related themes such as class antagonism and capitalism as a lived system), has become almost nonexistent in Israeli literary criticism. Only recently, with the slow return of class issues to the political stage in Israel, an awareness of this lack has reemerged.
This paper tries to sketch, in broad terms, the history of the appearance of labor in Israeli fiction from the 60s until our neoliberal present. The paper begins with a brief theoretical introduction to the way labor and class are registered in literary form, borrowing from the writing of Georg Lukacs, Silvia Federici, Fredric Jameson and others. The paper then briefly addresses the representation of work in three texts: A.B. Yehoshua’s “Facing the Forests”, David Grossman’s Smile of the Lamb and Einat Yakir’s Sand to chart the history of the representation of work in Israeli fiction, and decipher the political messages unconsciously expressed by these.

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