Pnina Moed Kass

Portrait Pnina Moed Kass
© Hartwig Klappert

Pnina Moed Kass was born in Belgium in 1938 and grew up in New York. She has been living in Israel, her country of choice, for nearly forty years. After studying political science and art history in the USA she worked in music and advertising. She wrote for various magazines and taught English at a high school in the USA and later in Israel. Her literary work comprises short stories that have appeared in numerous newspapers and anthologies, and screenplays, lyrics, stories for illustrated books and the novel “Real Time” (2004), which caused a sensation.

Unrelenting in its description, Moed Kass’ novel presents a mosaic of characters whose lives intersect on a bus in Jerusalem at a horrific moment – 11:47 on the morning when a bomb explodes on a bus. The author masterfully merges their destinies into a poignant document of everyday life in today’s Israel: sixteen-year-old Thomas Wanninger searching for answers to his grandfather’s Nazi past; his contemporary, a young Palestinian named Sameh Laham, who works illegally in an Israeli restaurant; Vera Brodsky from Odessa; Holocaust survivor Baruch Ben Tov, and a Palestinian doctor who works at an Israeli hospital. Hour after hour, minute after minute, Pnina Moed Kass follows the events using a technique of multiple perspectives before and after the suicide attack, depicting a haunting portrait of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Like tangled string when you pull at it, it gets tighter”, reads the novel. The interior monologues are excellently and theatrically interspersed with conversations, radio announcements and the police investigation, paramedic reports, medical findings, television commentaries and eyewitness accounts. The novel achieves great persuasive power particularly because the author refuses to ignore any perspective. She sheds light on the nightmare of everyday life in Israel as well as on the suicide bombers’ motives and the debasing conditions of life in Gaza. In the lead characters’ streams of consciousness before and after the attack their true motives are revealed and given new meaning: What do secrets, hopes and dreams mean after such a calamity? Through the comment-free montage of these reflections Pnina Moed Kass builds up a striking picture of horror amid the insanity of terror. “At times I wondered if I was writing something, or just recording it”, the author said, who decided to write this novel after the worldwide wave of terrorism on September 11. The “Frankfurter Rundschau” listed it as one of “the most exciting teen books of the last years”.

The novel, written in English, has since been published in France, Germany and soon in Italy. The work received the Sydney Taylor Book Award (2004) as well as the National Jewish Book Award (2005). It is on many recommended reading lists, foremost on that of the American Library Association (2006). In addition, Moed Kass has published a series of picture books in Hebrew. The author has three sons and three grandchildren. She lives near Tel Aviv.

© international literature festival berlin