February 27, 2013

The first Iranian books to be translated into Hebrew are a resounding success


Despite rising tensions between the governments of Iran and Israel, it seems the Israeli people are eager to understand their neighbors through literature.

Samuel Thorpe in the Christian Science Monitor writes that a Persian novel from 1973, My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad and translated into Hebrew by Orly Noy, was one of Israeli publisher Xargol Books most successful works of 2012.

In addition, The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (published in English by Melville House), was also critically acclaimed in Israel and sold surprisingly well. Noy, the translator of both titles, has a theory.

“Noy sees the unflinching condemnation of the Islamic Revolution’s failed ideologies in “The Colonel” as model for Israeli criticism of their own grand ideology, Zionism…”How far are you willing to go in the name of an ideology that you once believed in passionately, until you discover in yourself the strength to stop and say ‘this is not what we intended’? I think there are few Israelis who have the strength that Dowlatabadi demonstrates in this book.”

For two countries in such conflict, and with so much at stake, it has surprised many that Israelis have taken to some of the first Iranian books to be published in Hebrew to such an extent. Thorpe also quotes Haggai Ram, a professor at Beer Sheva’s Ben Gurion University who wrote the afterword to Noy’s translation of The Colonel, who tries to explain it.

“Iran fascinates Israelis, and fascinated them before the 1979 revolution…There’s a great thirst to know things about Iran that are not related to the nuclear issue, or to the so-called fanatic Ayatollahs. These are two peoples who have established nation states in the heart of the Middle East and both countries – Israel and Iran – are non-Arab enclaves in the heart of the Arab Orient.”

Dowlatabadi’s The Colonel and Missing Soluch are available from Melville House, and his latest novel Besmal will be out later this year.


Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.