Books by Hillel Halkin

Hillel Halkin is a writer, translator, and columnist for the Jerusalem Post, Commentary, and the New York Sun. He lives in Zichron Ya'aka.

Released: Oct. 14, 2013

"Riveting, revealing stories of patient denial."
A superb collection of real-life medical mysteries. Read full book review >
TO THIS DAY by S.Y. Agnon
Released: April 1, 2008

"In Halkin's beautifully fluid translation (he has also supplied a perceptive introduction), we see Agnon's piquant illustration of a disorientation that feels quite contemporary."
The last of Agnon's six novels to be translated from Hebrew into English, this 1951 work describes the travails of a young Jew in Berlin during the Great War. Agnon (1888-1970) won the Nobel in 1966. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 14, 2006

"A moving, unsentimental reckoning with death and renewal."
Israeli novelist Yehoshua (The Liberated Bride, 2003, etc.) explores our obligations to the dead in an emotionally powerful novel. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2005

"Everyone here spins good yarns, rendered in lovely prose, but the book's hefty size pads a pretty skimpy adventure."
Long-winded, thoughtfully meandering tale of the repercussions of a WWI spy ring on a Palestine village. Read full book review >
FEATHERS by Haim Be’er
Released: April 30, 2004

"A richly crafted ode to the past, this 1979 classic, now in a first English translation, was chosen by the National Yiddish Book Center as 'one of the 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature.'"
Israeli Be'er (The Pure Element of Time, 2002, etc.) evokes a Jerusalem neighborhood as magical and surreal as a Chagall painting. Meanwhile, a young soldier recalls growing up there in the 1950s and '60s. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2003

"A splendidly realized search for the causes of ruptures that rend families and nations: both timely and timeless."
A multilayered story from the fine Israeli novelist (Returning Lost Loves, 2001, etc.) mixes the personal and political as a historian seeks explanations for two seemingly disconnected events: his son's divorce and an outbreak of violence in Algeria. Read full book review >
RUN, BOY, RUN by Uri Orlev
Released: Oct. 27, 2003

Based on a true story, this tale of one Jewish orphan's survival during the Holocaust boggles the imagination. Srulik, separated from his parents in the Warsaw ghetto at the age of 9, begins an odyssey that takes him into the Polish countryside, where he must literally remake himself to survive. A brief, surreal reunion with his father in a potato field results in his father's death and his transformation into Jurek, a Polish Catholic orphan. In this identity, he wanders from village to village, finding temporary refuge with farmers, partisans, a lonely German soldier, and, incredibly, a Gestapo officer—losing an arm along the way, but always surviving on a combination of quick wits and determination. Orlev tells his tale with few flourishes, the straightforward narration oddly unemotional; it is through Srulik/Jurek's actions that the reader divines his inner state, not narrative revelation. As declarative sentence leads to declarative sentence, the story marches to its conclusion, Srulik/Jurek's ultimate inability to sort out his own fact from the fiction he has been living speaking quiet volumes. Mesmerizing and memorable. (Fiction. 10 )Read full book review >
Released: May 15, 2003

A young student's experience of combat and subsequent questioning of the principles by which he lives. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 15, 2002

"Genuinely intriguing, and difficult to dismiss."
A skeptical Israeli gradually becomes convinced that an obscure ethnic group living on the Indian-Burmese border descends from one of the biblical lost tribes. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

Kahn—pugnacious world-class shipping magnate and survivor of the Nazi holocaust—presents a fascinating personal history displaying equal parts of bravado and bravery. As a young man Kahn was a neighbor of Anne Frank's and just a few years older than the celebrated child diarist. In his opinion (and he is expansive in his opinions), Anne might have lived if only the Franks had taken their fate in their own hands—as he did. After a particularly aggressive opening, in which he sketches in his present happy circumstances, Kahn describes his painful childhood. His distant mother abandoned the family when he was four; his father seemed to him an ineffectual blowhard and never earned his respect. A sad, difficult childhood, it seems, prepared Kahn for the necessity of living by his wits. The wily teenager, frequently with the aid of friends and strangers, Jewish and Christian, repeatedly eluded the Nazis, determined to get to England to carry on the fight, and convinced that ``doing everything in one's power to save one's own neck'' was ``the only reasonable'' strategy open to an adolescent alone and at terrible risk in enemy territory. The tale of his long flight across Europe is one of lofty adventure, punctuated by hairbreadth escapes and occasional sex. Kahn finished the war as a Dutch naval officer. Then his career took him to sea in the service of Israel, where, his faith in the Almighty damaged by the Holocaust, he found lasting belief in the Jewish people. His story ends aboard his yacht, with a faithful factotum preparing drinks in the background while the entrepreneur muses about his life. In a rapid-fire, tough-guy mode, Kahn (with evident writerly help from his collaborator, Israeli journalist and translator Halkin) speaks with the authority of a special kind of Dutch uncle. If there is more than a hint of hubris, it may not be entirely unearned. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

The author of The Man from the Other Side (1991, Batchelder Award) tells the story of another real-life Middle European who survived WW II. Born in Bucharest in 1933, ``Lydia'' is a willful terror. She forces her mother to fire three nannies (though she picks up German and French from the first two); makes anonymous threatening phone calls to a neighbor she imagines is her sworn enemy (``That Woman,'' who lured her father away); and when her mother arranges her escape to Palestine in 1943, she feistily barters for privileges like a window seat on the train. At a kibbutz, awaiting her mother, Lydia designates her new housemother as another enemy, but she does make other friends; and she weathers, without self-pity, sudden immersion in a society without private possessions, though she raises an outcry- -and, as usual, gets action—when the dolls that once belonged to her mother, and that have long enacted her own intense fantasies about her family, are taken from her. She looks up her father, now married to ``That Woman,'' who turns out to be nice; when her mother finally arrives, also remarried, Lydia is able to make peace with both sets of parents. Often outrageous and abrasive, yet also delightfully imaginative, bright, and tenacious, Lydia is the very archetype of a survivor, while her experiences on the periphery of the war's horrors are authentic and fascinating. An afterword notes that the real Lydia still lives on an Israeli kibbutz with her rabbi husband. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1991

When Israeli author Orlev, who drew on his own ghetto experiences in The Island on Bird Street (1984; Batchelder Award), met a certain Polish journalist, they found that both had been boys in Warsaw during WW II; Orlev kept ``Marek's'' extensive confidences secret (including his discovery in 1942 that his father—executed in 1934 as a Communist—was Jewish) until his death in 1987. Now, Orlev shapes Marek's account into a powerful novel about a devout 13-year-old Catholic in a virulently anti-Semitic society, responding to his experiences by coming to champion the Jews walled in near his home. With stepfather Antony, Marek already knows the ghetto: traveling through sewers, they take food to sell there at high prices, often returning with a baby to hide with the nuns (no charge). Still, Marek is casually anti-Semitic until he helps rob a Jewish escapee and is caught by his mother, who points out that ``You sentenced him to death'' and reveals his own heritage. Deeply shaken, Marek sets out to make amends. He befriends a man he sees crossing himself the wrong way and ultimately leads him back, underground, to the ghetto, during the heroic ghetto uprising. Orlev's characters are sobering, believable blends: e.g., Antony dislikes Jews but, knowing Marek's background, wants to adopt him; he turns others' dire needs to profit but has ``nothing against human beings.'' Many others in this richly authentic story are equally complex. Subtle, beautifully crafted, altogether compelling. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >