Israeli writers share memories, literature, ideas

New Delhi: Two of Israel’s well-known women writers – Dorit Rabinyan and Sarai Shavit – lent a touch of foreign glamour to the Delhi leg of the Kovalam Literary Festival 2012 here Wednesday and will go over to Kovalam this weekend.

Dorit Rabinyan

The 1972-born Rabinyan, from a Persian-Jewish family, published her first novel at the age of 22. Her television script, “Shuli’s Fiance”, won the Israeli Academy Award for Best Drama in 1997. She has been awarded the Yitzhak Vinner Prize and the Prime Minister’s Prize.

Shavit, 10 years younger than Rabinyan, is a poet and a novelist. She won the Tel Aviv Poetry for the Road Prize in 2007 and joined the league of Indophiles with her novel, “India Express”, published this year, inspired by her stint at a guest house in the capital where she stayed as a tourist.

The novel plots itself around the adventures of a young woman, Mali Mualem, who comes to India looking for her older brother. Mualem is a biographical sketch, though fictional, about a young woman Shavit met in Manali in Himachal Pradesh. It talks of roots, love and relationships.

The duo reflects the changing face of Israel’s literature, where women have been scripting new sensibilities with their powerful writing and feminist narratives for the last two decades, spurred by the struggle for gender equality in society.

The rise of early modern women Hebrew writers like Devorah Baron, poetess Rahel and Amalia Kahana Carmon in the country is hailed as a triumph of women’s power over their male literary counterparts, who controlled the Hebrew language for several centuries.

Rabiyan is a neo-feminist petrel – articulate, loud and firmly grounded in politics. “We cannot take politics out of every day life – from whatever we do throughout the day,” she said.

Indian in demeanour, Rabiyan traces her roots to an ancient community that migrated from India to West Asia. “The last time when I was here in India 15 years ago, people mistook me for a Punjabi woman,” said Rabiyan.

One of her books, “Strength of a Thousand Pillars”, is a fictional account of her travels in India, where she traced the course of the Ganga from its source at Gomukh to Varanasi and Kolkata for a year. “The Ganges becomes a vein on the wrist of the lead character in my book,” she said.

The book is about a character who moves from Iran to India to Israel, she said.

“There is something totally different about India. Tel Aviv is swept with yoga and meditation centres. People identify themselves with Osho and Patanjali. India has given Israel new spirituality – beyond the strict mosaic of Judaism,” Rabinyan said.


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