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The Ascent of Eli Israel [Kindle Edition]

Dara Horn , Jonathan Papernick
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A profoundly unsettling collection of tales of Americans caught up in the ethnic, religious, social, economic, and political conflicts of modern day Israel, by an astonishing new voice.In a land where sudden death is an everyday fact of life, a boy dodges bullets and searches through rubble for news of his soldier father. An aging rabbi’s faith is tested by a crippling, seemingly supernatural affliction. A middle-aged man comforts his Holocaust-survivor mother as she faces senility, convinced that Nazis are conspiring against her. And the mysterious biblical red heifer makes a startling appearance in the midst of a decidedly contemporary struggle.In these unsettling tales, the remarkable Jon Papernick transports us to modern-day Israel, a country torn by war, strife, and controversy throughout the history of its statehood. Giving voice to striking characters--Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans; Arabs, Christians, and Jews--caught in the ethnic, religious, social, and political conflicts of a dangerous region, Papernick brings the images we glimpse from afar, in newspapers and on television, chillingly to life. By turns starkly realistic and allegorically fantastic, these tales chronicle the conflict from the inside and illuminate the suffering and anger experienced by those on all sides.In “An Unwelcome Guest,” a young Jewish settler from New York plays a deadly game of backgammon with a ghostly old Arab while his pregnant wife sleeps unaware. In “The King of the King of Falafel,” a restaurant rivalry ends in apocalyptic violence. In “Lucky Eighteen,” two young Americans living in Jerusalem as the Oslo accords collapse juggle political activism and a devastating love triangle--under the dark specter of suicide bombings. And in the brilliant, horrifying title story, a lonely shepherd wanders a broken no-man’s-land, carrying with him the burden of an unspeakable act.In these haunting and strangely beautiful stories, the tragic carnage of the Middle East is rendered in unforgettable form. Suffused with rage, violence, humor, magic, and religion, this gripping collection leaves a profound impact. Evenhanded yet passionate, shocking yet hopeful, The Ascent of Eli Israelheralds the arrival of a masterful storyteller.Please visit

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Papernick was a reporter in Israel after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and he offers unique insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in these seven powerful stories, which approach violent coexistence from unusual angles. In "Lucky Eighteen," a cynical young photographer distributes an insulting poster of Mohammed and after a suicide bus bombing photographs the grisly remains. In "The King of the King of Falafel," the hilarity of a competition between falafel shops is muted when a rash action by the sons of the owner of the unsuccessful shop leads to an unexpected climax. In the eerie "An Unwelcome Guest," Yossi, a settler from America, awakes to discover a ghostly Arab, Ziad, who demands he play backgammon and is quickly joined by a horde of other Arabs. They protest that this was their land. Yossi replies that his people were there first. At the muezzin's cry the Arabs vanish, but one appears, bloodied, from the bedroom where Devorah, Yossi's pregnant wife, slept. The defining, ineradicable memory of the past persists in "For As Long As the Lamp Is Burning." As Avshalom looks at the stars, he whispers, "there are six million of them." Papernick's message of hope and disillusion mingle in the title story, in which the protagonist is stoned by a group of boys as he drives toward Jerusalem. Fearful that they might set his car on fire, he shoots. One boy is killed. He puts the body, similar to that of his own son, in his trunk and muses, "God teaches you hard." It is Papernick's sense of the surreal, his dark humor and his consciousness of the deep roots of Jewish and Muslim culture that distinguish this collection.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Strange, surrealistic tales of modern-day Israel make up this unusual debut collection by an American reporter who lived in that country for several years. In the title story, two former deadheads from America align themselves with the ultra-orthodox and fight in Hebron, the besieged city. Murder and a kind of transformed vision of reality obsess these two young men. In "Malchyk," a young son succeeds in joining his father, who is fighting to gain control of the Old City of Jerusale during the War of Independence. In "The King of Falafel," two rival falafel makers compete with apocalyptically violent results. In "An Unwelcome Guest," a young Jewish settler from New York plays a deadly game of backgammon with a wan old Arab while his wife sleeps unaware. These well-written stories will appeal to readers who appreciate the depiction of Israel as unsettling and almost bizarre.
Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 344 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052ZO72A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,749 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, fascinating collection August 20, 2003
By A Customer
This stunning collection of stories leaves the reader transformed. Papernick's vivid prose is laced with visions and nightmares, beauty and blood, laughter and nausea, music and gunfire. Fascinating characters, at odds with themselves, seek to change an unfathomable land and instead find they are the ones altered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! July 30, 2003
By A Customer
The Ascent of Eli Israel is a vivid, disturbing, haunting, sometimes hilarious trip through the looking glass of modern Israel. The aftermath of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin is painted in vivid colors, as the Oslo Peace Records crumble, as suicide bombs explode in the streets of Jerusalem and ghostly Arabs appear, claiming the right to return to their former homes. Papernick brings the reader to a nightmare world of clashing national myths, in which both sides claim to have God on their side; to a world where the Messiah might appear at any moment to settle the score. These stories are not political stories, however. Papernick refuses to choose sides, to provide easy answers leaving readers to puzzle out their feelings. This is one of the best collections of short stories I have read in years. It stands not only as a great work about Israel and the workings of the Middle East, but also as a great work of fiction. The Ascent of Eli Israel is Papernick's first book. I can't wait to read his next.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World-class, masterful debut July 22, 2002
By A Customer
The heir apparent to Singer, Malamud and Roth has arrived. Bravo!!! A breathless reading experience that doesn't let you go until you have reached the last word. Papernick's fictional world is at once funny, horrifying and real, like a punch in the gut. A must read for anyone who cares about better understanding the pain and joy of living.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get it today -- an amazingly insightful read! July 22, 2006
The Ascent of Eli Israel simply blew me away and I encourage anyone with an interest in the Middle East or different worlds to read it right away. Jon Papernick's concepts for the stories are so imaginative and told perfectly, revealing all different sides of the struggle. They grab you. And the characters - whether you love them or hate them (and some are despicable), they move you and it is because of how skillfully they have been crafted. Sometimes I would reread sentences because of how beautiful they sounded even when the scene itself was not beautiful in that moment. You can tell the author spent time in Israel because the portraits he creates give a genuine sense of place and time. And the images are so clear cut, very vivid. The unease, the random violence, the hatred that feels oppressive. It was like sneaking into the country and hanging out for a few nights. The Ascent of Eli Israel is well worth your money and time.
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More About the Author

Jonathan Papernick's first collection of short stories The Ascent of Eli Israel was published by Arcade Publishing in 2002 and received a full-page review in the New York Times and a starred review in Publishers Weekly. His first novel entitled, Who by Fire, Who by Blood was published by Exile Editions in 2007. The Jerusalem Report called it "...a fast-paced thriller ...frightening ...a finely drawn picture of a human being unraveling."

Papernick's second collection of stories pursues the conflicted inner turmoil of Jews caught in a modern maelstrom. Publishers Weekly wrote: "Papernick's new collection is tight and fearless." Author Dara Horn wrote: "Every single story here delivers a knock-out punch that will leave you reeling long after you've put it down -- and revising your thinking on what life and love really mean."

He is currently completing his second novel, entitled The Sunday Synagogue Softball League, and is writing stories towards his third collection, Gallery of the Disappeared Men.

Papernick is currently Senior Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston.

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