Poet, novelist, editor, musician and university lecturer Shimon Adaf was born in 1972 in Sderot, a small town in southern Israel, to parents who emigrated from Morocco. About Adaf, Israeli critic and scholar Omri Herzog has written, “he is erudite [...] a daring and unconventional artist. Motivated by the desire to breach consensual standards of writing, to cause friction between past and future, and to create literary, technological and linguistic worlds, Adaf is situated at the cutting edge of literary innovation in Israel.”
And for a long time. His first poems were published in literary magazines when the writer was twenty. A founding member of the literary group Ev, between 1996 and 2000 he studied at Tel Aviv University and wrote articles on literature, film and rock music. From 2000 to 2005, Adaf served as chief literary editor for the Keter publishing house. The author of three books of verse and ten novels, including science fiction, a genre rare in Hebrew, he has translated Philip K. Dick's The Man in The High Castle into Hebrew.
Adaf currently heads the Creative Writing Program at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and teaches in the new Jewish-Arab Culture Studies program there. Despite his interest in roots, Adaf warns against reliance on strict identity politics, in a recent Haaretz interview with Gili Izikovich:
"Suddenly everyone [in certain Israeli literary groups] is saying […] 'You call me primitive? [Well] that's my identity.' There is no thought given to exceptions, or change, and [this vacuity] has become a literary construction. There is no self-criticism, but merely a pronouncement about the self. What once constituted parody [...] is now what literature wants to be – stereotypical."
In Adaf's newest book of literary essyas, Ani Aherim (I, Others), Izikovich writes, he discusses
"those who would seem to be quite different from him – Aharon Appelfeld and Lea Goldberg, Yakov Shabtai and Avot Yeshurun, Hedva Harkavy and Yoel Hoffman and Yair Garbuz – and ends the book with an essay about himself and writing and its place in his life. Someone whose work is considered a fascinating labyrinth, whose readers have, hopefully, emerged from the other side and understood where they have been, attempts to dismantle structures and identities, to examine an Israeli nature different from his own, as a critic from the outside".
Almost from the start, in his early poem RESCUE FROM OBLIVION, Adaf appears to be saying that identity is not wholly dependent on the past:
that I've reached
the end of history.
Not in the meaning of philosophy. There, reason knows itself
fully actualizing phenomenon as an idea. No. In a simpler sense
history ceases to be
essential for definition...
[Tr. Becka Mara McKay]
The 2017 winner of the Hebrew University's prestigious Newman Prize for Literature, Adaf has been awarded the Ministry of Education Award (1996), the Prime Minister's Prize (2007), the Yehuda Amichai Prize for Poetry (2010), and the Sapir Prize for his novel Mox Nox (2013). New English translations of his work appear in the May 2018 Bellingham Review. Books of his poetry are forthcoming in French, English and Spanish.
Shimon Adaf was a guest of the Poetry International Rotterdam Festival in 2001.
Poetry in Hebrew
Ha-monolog shel Iqarus (Icarus' Monologue). Tel Aviv, Gvanim, 1997.
Ma she-xashavti tsel hu ha-guf ha-amitti (What I Thought was Shadow is the Real Body). Jerusalem, Keter, 2002.
Aviva-no Tel Aviv, Dvir, 2009.
Literary Criticism in Hebrew
Ani,aherim Tel Aviv, Dvir, 2018
Forthcoming in translation
Les Editions Caractères publieront en septembre 2018 son premier livre de poésie, traduit par Michel Eckhard Elial, « Le monologue d'Icare »
Aviva-no tr. Yael Segalowitz, Farmington, Maine, Alice James Books, 2019.
Aviva-no Trilce Ediciones, Mexico City
Books in English translation
Sunburnt Faces (novel) tr. Margalit Rodgers and Anthony Berris, UK, PS Publishing 2013
Art & War: poetry, pulp and politics in Israeli fiction (essays) ed. with Lavie Tidhar, NY, Penguin Random House, 2016
Poems in Hebrew and German on Lyrikline
A podcast on TLV 1
An interview in Tablet
Ishmael, a short story
Jewish Book Council interview
Review of Sunburnt Faces
Essays by/about the poet in BGU Review
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