Asher Reich was born in Jerusalem in 1937, when the city was still within Palestine, and under the British Protectorate. He grew up isolated from modern life in Jerusalem’s Jewish Orthodox quarter Mea Sharim. He had a strict and purely orthodox upbringing and education, and his schooling was based exclusively on the scriptures. At the age of 18 he took the radical step of leaving the quarter, which was like taking “a leap in time onto another planet”. After his military service he studied Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He worked in Tel Aviv as a journalist and editor for several newspapers, as well as teaching Creative Writing at the Be’er Sheva University. Between 1980 and 2002 he was the chief editor of ‘Moznain’, the literary publication of the Israeli Authors’ Association. His first poetry volume ‘Ha-Shana Ha-Svi’it Le-Nedudai’ (Engl: In the Seventh Year) was published in 1961, and won the Anne Frank Award from the American Israeli Cultural Foundation. To date, thirteen poetry volumes have been published, among them ‘Zrihat Layla’ (1972; Engl: Night Rise), ‘Avodot Al Nyar’ (1988; Engl: Work on Paper) and ‘Musikat Horef’ (1996; Engl: Winter Music). The intensity of his poems, and the poetic sensuality of his images are mingled with quotes from the Talmud and the Bible. This aspect of Reich’s work originates from the contradictory influences of the poet’s disparate environments. Christopher Meckel wrote in the epilogue of the German translation of ‘Avodot Al Nyar’, “The scribe had to learn to incorporate the different dialects of the modern world: the jargon and tone of our profane times, the political propaganda and technical vocabulary of the modern state, the secret languages of love, the body, the soul, slang and colloquial language, academic and literary hypertrophies.” Asher Reich describes his childhood influences thus: “I was fortunate enough that, even before I was three, I was transported, through the words of the Tora into an enchanted universe of words, sounds, and prayers; a world which took me away from the desert of my childhood.” His ‘Tel Aviver Ungeduld’ (2002; Engl: Tel Aviv Impatience) is another collection of poetry published in German. Together with his poetry publications, radio plays and stories, he has also published the autobiographical novel ‘Zichronot Shel Holeh Schiheha’ (1993; Engl: Memoirs of a Forgetful Person). The latter was written while in Berlin receiving a DAAD grant. He has received a string of awards for his work, including the Israeli Presidential Prize for Literature in 2000. In 2004/2005 he again was a scholarship holder of the DAAD, Berlin. Asher Reich lives in Tel Aviv.
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