Meir Shalev

Portrait Meir Shalev
© Hartwig Klappert

Meir Shalev was born in the kibbutz Nahalal in 1948 shortly after the state of Israel was founded. Son of the writer Yitzchak Shalev, he studied art and psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and worked as a host and producer of satirical television and radio programmes.

His first novel, »Roman Russi« (1988; Eng. »The Blue Mountain«, 1988), relates the lives of three generations with the founding of Israel. In the focal point of the story is the grandson of a settlement pioneer in the Jisreel valley. Through sensory pictures and quiet humour Shalev renders magical and complex relationship networks, in which individual fates, mythical characters, human and regional histories resonate. He became internationally renowned upon the publication of his novel, »Ke’Jamim Ahadim« (1994; Eng. »The Loves of Judith«, 1999). It is a story with several temporal and plot layers, which tells a family saga and love story of three men in love with Judith, the mother of the first-person narrator. His latest novel, »Jona ve Na’ar« (2006; Eng. »A Pigeon and a Boy«), shows the secret relationship between the tour guide Jair and a carrier pigeon breeder who dies in the Independence War in 1948, against the backcloth of the development of Israel.

Shalev has also made a name for himself with his ironic and polemical political columns in the daily »Jedioth Acharonoth«. Impacted by his experiences in the Six Day War, in which he fought as a nineteen year-old, the author is a supporter of the restitution of the occupied territories. As a Zionist, he recalls Israel’s former goals. »Israel has wasted its energy, time and money on the occupation, and, in doing so, neglected education, culture, and the entire aspects of life in civil society. The essence of the two thousand years of Jewish exile has been lost with it«.

Shalev’s children’s books have been named »Picture Book of the Month« by the German Academy for Children’s and Youth Literature several times. Shalev proved himself as a non-fiction author and masterful Biblical exegete in »HaTanach Achshav« (1985; t: The Bible now), a collection of modern analysis and retellings of the Old Testament which also have a political dimension: »I consider the carelessness with which secular Jews allow the Bible to monopolize the religious faction to be inexcusable. Precisely because I am secular I have learned a great deal from the Bible.«

Shalev’s works have been translated into more than twenty languages and awarded numerous prizes, including the Brenner Prize, the Bernstein Award, the Premio Scrivere per Amore, the National Jewish Book Award, the Literature Prize from the city of Chiavari and the Shimon Ben Shemesh Prize. The author is a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. He lives with his family in Jerusalem.

© international literature festival berlin