23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

David Grossman

Portrait David Grossman
© Peter-Andreas Hassiepen 

David Grossman was born in Jerusalem in 1954. He began working for Radio Israel at the age of ten. Following his military service, Grossman studied Philosophy and theatre at the Hebrew University. His first stories already focused on two themes which were to persist throughout his work: coming of age and the war and violence that mark everyday life in Israel. Since then, Grossman has published a large number of novels, short stories, plays for radio and theatre (some for children), and non-fiction books. He is a leading Israeli writer of his generation.

Grossmanʼs first novel, »Hiyukh Ha-Gedi« (1983; Eng. »The Smile of the Lamb«, 1991), made into a film two years later, focuses on the occupation of the West Bank while his collection of reportages, »Ha-Zeman Ha-Tzahov« (1987; Eng. »The Yellow Wind«, 1988) documents individual cases in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shortly after the death of his son Uri who was a soldier in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict, Grossman – in the presence of Prime Minister Olmert – made an appeal to turn away from the current politics of violence and mistrust. As the author stated in a talk at the Jerusalem Book Fair, literature makes a crucial contribution to overcoming the conflict: »Writing in such a violent reality is a constant attempt to redeem individuality, to reclaim the uniqueness of the individual, in a situation that blurs the uniqueness and the nuance. When we write here we manage to experience the almost forgotten flexibility of a change of perspective; of looking at reality from somebody else’s eyes, sometimes even the eyes of our enemy.« His skill to touchingly portray the fate of individuals is often apparent in Grossman’s novels, in which the boundaries between literature for young people and adults are blurred. »Ajien Erech: Ahavah« (1986; Eng. »See under: Love«, 1990) revolves around a child’s search to come to terms with the Holocaust. »Yesh Yeladim Zigzag« (1994; Eng. »The ZigZag Kid«, 1997) tells the story of a young man in search of his family’s secret. The English translation of his novel »Sus eḥad nikhnas le-bar« (2014; Eng. »A Horse Walks Into a Bar«, 2017), about a cynical comedian who preformed one last time on his 57th birthday, was the first Israeli work to receive the Man Booker Prize. His most recent book, »Iti ha-chaijm messachek harbej« (Eng. »Life Plays With Me«, 2019), is based on a true story and tells of a young woman who, on her grandmother’s 90th birthday, decides to take her and her mother on a trip to the former prison island of Goli Otok in Croatia to make a film about her life.

Grossman has been awarded numerous literary prizes for his work, such as the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Geschwister-Scholl Prize, and the Prix Médics étranger. For his political commitment he has received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. In 1998, he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in a suburb of Jerusalem.