Fragments of Hell: Israeli Holocaust Literature

Fragments of Hell: Israeli Holocaust Literature

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Dvir Abramovich

ISBN: 9781644690048 (hardcover) / 9781644692622 (paperback)
Pages: 146 pp.
Publication Date: April 2019

PREORDER NOTICE: Paperback will ship November 19th 2019

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In this compelling and engaging book, Dvir Abramovich introduces readers to several landmark novels, poems and stories that have become classics in the Israeli Holocaust canon. Discussed are iconic writers such as Aharon Appelfeld, Dan Pagis, Etgar Keret, Yoram Kaniuk, Uri Tzvi Greenberg and Ka-Tzetnik, and their attempts to come to terms with the unprecedented trauma and its aftereffects. Scholarly, yet deeply accessible to both students and to the public, this illuminating volume offers a wide-ranging introduction to the intersection between literature and the Shoah, and the linguistic, stylistic and ethical difficulties inherent in representing this catastrophe in fiction. Exploring narratives by survivors and by those who wrote about the European genocide from a distance, each chapter contains a compassionate and thoughtful analysis of the author’s individual opus, accompanied by a comprehensive exploration of their biography and the major themes that underpin their corpus. The rich and sophisticated discussions and interpretations contained in this masterful set of essays are sure to become essential reading for those seeking to better understand the responses by Hebrew writers to the immense tragedy that befell their people.

Dvir Abramovich is the Israel Kipen Director of the Program in Jewish Culture & Society at The University of Melbourne and the author of five books. He was President of the Australian Association of Jewish Studies and has published widely in the area of Israeli and Jewish literature.


Fragments of Hell is an insightful and powerful exploration of Holocaust writing. Dvir Abramovich’s book provides the necessary context for understanding how and why Holocaust writing matters today. This is judicious, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
— Murray Baumgarten, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz
In his new book, Fragments of Hell, Dvir Abramovich skillfully and painstakingly analyzes an excellent choice of Israeli, Hebrew-written, literary works, the common theme of which is the Holocaust. Well-structured, eloquently written and constantly referring to updated literary criticism, his chapters demonstrate how both the complexities of Israeli society and the authors’ struggle to express their notions on this vast and troubling issue, are reflected in these works. The chapter on the Aharon Appelfeld universe, telling the ‘saga of Jewish sadness,’ for instance, is certainly a masterpiece.
— Dina Porat, Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem—The World Holocaust Remembrance Center
Fragments of Hell offers a trenchant critical analysis of how Israeli writers of fiction and poetry have responded to the old-fashioned religious feeling that there are some things that are too terrible to be looked at or into directly. Perseus, for example, would turn to stone if he were to look at the serpent-headed Medusa directly rather than through reflection in a mirror or a shield. In this study of such Hebrew writers as Aharon Appelfeld, Dan Pagis, and Uri Zvi Greenberg, Abramovich has produced one of the most illuminating studies of Holocaust literature since Alvin Rosenfeld’s A Double Dying (1980).
— Edward Alexander, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
Abramovich trods into the Hell of the Shoah like a Dante depending on these great writers to help him as his Virgil to see what is forbidden and understand what the Jews suffered undeservingly. That is the true horror. Dante in his masterpiece defends the suffering in Hell for these people had failed their ethical duties. But all these Jews were innocents cast into a Hell where God is absent! Abramovich reveals how these Hebrew writers had to plunge into their own emotional agony to understand and translate into words their questioning why such horror existed and where was God in all this pyre of flames and meaninglessness.
— Seth Wolitz, Professor Emeritus, The University of Texas at Austin

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Foreboding and Wishful Thinking in a Town with a Difference
Chapter 2: Our Mother Eve on a Death Train
Chapter 3: The Prophet of Wrath and Lamentation
Chapter 4: The Shoah as an Asylum
Chapter 5: And he Survived “Planet Auschwitz”
Chapter 6: A Funny and Sensitive Story about Holocaust Memory in Israel