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International Writers Festival hits Jerusalem

by michael May 09 2008
Things to do

 

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For a nation of people who celebrate their independence by hitting each other with hammers and grilling kebabs on roadway medians, Israelis are surprisingly voracious readers. Israeli writers are world-class and widely read. No mall or bus station is complete without a Steimatzky. Prominent novels from abroad - from highbrow literature on down to Harry Potter ve-Hanasikh Hatzui Dam - are promptly translated and well-marketed. The yearly Book Week sparks rushes on discounted tomes. You can't even spend a cold fifty without contending with S.Y. Agnon in all his watermarked violet glory.

So it's only fitting that Jerusalem should play host to the International Writers Festival, a multidisciplinary literary extravaganza starting this Sunday, brought to you by the sober intellectuals at Mishkenot Sha'ananim and - proving once again how little sense Israel makes - the national lottery. Next your friendly neighborhood numbers racket will start a book club. The luminaries showing up for the festival's dozens of conferences include Hebrew heavyweights David Grossman, Amos Oz, Yehudit Katzir, Etgar Keret and Zeruya Shalev, Nadine Gordimer from South Africa, Andrei Makine from France, and from America, the much-vaunted first couple of kinda-Jewy literature: Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss.

Most of the festival's events are lectures presided over by one or more authors, or meetings between foreign authors and their Israeli translators (thrilling!), but if an intimate discussion of the finer points of Hebrew-Spanish translation doesn't appeal to you, there are screenings of films selected by visiting authors, tours of local sites of literary significance, and even a play or two. A significant portion of events are in English.

The festival runs from this Sunday, May 11, until the 15th. View the English program here.

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