With Both Feet on the Clouds: Fantasy in Israeli Literature

With Both Feet on the Clouds: Fantasy in Israeli Literature


Edited by Elana Gomel, Rani Graff & Danielle Gurevitch

Series: Israel: Society, Culture, and History
ISBN: 9781936235834 (hardcover)
Pages: 312 pp.
Publication Date: February 2013

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Why do Israelis dislike fantasy? Put so bluntly, the question appears frivolous. But in fact, it goes to the deepest sources of Israeli historical identity and literary tradition. Uniquely among developed nations, Israel’s origin is in a utopian novel, Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland (1902), which predicted the future Jewish state. The Jewish writing in the Diaspora has always tended toward the fantastic, the mystical, and the magical. And yet, from its very inception, Israeli literature has been stubbornly realistic. The present volume challenges this stance. Originally published in Hebrew in 2009, it is the first serious, wide-ranging and theoretically sophisticated exploration of fantasy in Israeli literature and culture. Its contributors jointly attempt to contest the question posed at the beginning: why do Israelis, living in a country whose very existence is predicated on the fulfillment of a utopian dream, distrust fantasy?

Elana Gomel (PhD Tel-Aviv University) is currently a senior lecturer and graduate advisor at the Department of English at Tel-Aviv University and is the author of numerous articles and four books, the most recent of which is Postmodern Science Fiction and Temporal Imagination (2010).

Rani Graff is the founder and CEO of Graff Publishing, Israel’s only publisher specifically devoted to Hebrew-language science fiction and fantasy.

Danielle Gurevitch (PhD Bar-Ilan University) is an ethnologist who specializes in fantasy fiction and myth, folk and traditional narratives in medieval England and France, and the neo-medievalist approach to the growing popularity of Medieval literately sources and aspiration. She is the associate dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

From the Talmudic sages to Bashevis-Singer, from medieval story-tellers to young contemporary Israeli writers, Jewish fantasy has been a treasure trove of the imagination, at least on a par with Greek and Norse mythologies. Yet unlike them, it has only rarely reveived scholarly attention. That is why this volume is so badly needed, and so timely, as interest in fantasy is becoming more intense worldwide.
— Emanuel Lottem, co-founder and first chairperson, Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy