Savyon Liebrecht’s intense, lyrical, and emotionally complex stories have made her a best-selling writer in her native Israel. Apples From the Desert brings together Liebrecht’s most vivid and affecting work and makes it available in English for the first time.
With a precision and a subtle ferocity reminiscent of the work of Nadine Gordimer, Liebrecht’s stories reveal the impact of larger social and political conflicts within the private worlds of home and family. She depicts the personal tragedies—and the small acts of courage and reconciliation—that grow from the deep-rooted conflict between Arabs and Jews, women and men, and older and younger generations in present-day Israel. These stories create a finely nuanced portrait of contemporary Israel; at the same time, they reach toward truths that know no national boundaries. As Lily Rattok writes in her introduction, “Liebrecht’s skill as a writer, combined with her perceptiveness, her compassion, and her deep humanity, create a body of work that is a testament to the healing power of storytelling.”
As Grace Paley notes in her foreword to the first English translation of popular Israeli writer Leibrecht's work, these dozen stories are "personal--but they are also fierce pleas for understanding and justice." Their themes are somber: the enmity between Jews and Arabs; the oppression of women in sometimes violently unhappy marriages; the lingering effects of the Holocaust. In "A Room on the Roof," a young Jewish woman finds herself drawn to the educated and sensitive leader of a group of Arabs she has hired--against her husband's wishes--to build an addition to her house, but prejudice, misunderstanding and fear overcome her attempts to connect with them. In the title story, a woman who has gone to a kibbutz to retrieve her runaway daughter comes to admire the egalitarian affair between the girl and a fellow kibbutznik, but returns to her own loveless marriage at the end. And in "Hayuta's Engagement," a woman tries unsuccessfully to mediate between her heartless daughter's desire for a smooth engagement party and her father's compulsive need to reveal the horrors of his long-ago concentration camp existence; though compassionate, she buckles under her daughter's insistence that the old man be silenced, with tragic results. Liebrecht's strong prose bears witness to conflict in powerful ways, and if her refusal to provide upbeat endings makes the tone of these tales unrelievedly dark, she is true to her subjects and their history.