An Ideological Death

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ISBN 978-0-8101-4379-1

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Publication Date
May 2021
Page Count
280 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

An Ideological Death

Suicide in Israeli Literature
Rachel S. Harris

An Ideological Death: Suicide in Israeli Literature explores literary challenges to Israel’s national narratives. Many prominent Israeli writers use their fiction to confront the centrality of the army, the mythology of the “new Jew,” the positioning of Tel Aviv as the first Israeli city, and the very process by which a nation’s history is constructed.

Yehudit Katzir, Etgar Keret, Amos Oz, Yaakov Shabtai, Benjamin Tammuz, and A. B. Yehoshua are among the writers who engage with depictions of suicide in a critical and rhetorical process that reconsiders myths at the heart of the Zionist project. In Israeli literature, suicide is linked to a society’s compulsion to create impossible ideals that leave its populace disappointed and deluded. Yet, as Rachel S. Harris shows, even at their harshest these writers also acknowledge the idealism that helped build Israel as a modern nation-state.
About the Author

RACHEL S. HARRIS is an assistant professor of Israeli literature and culture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


"This book constitutes a comprehensive study of the image of suicide in Israeli literature. It demonstrates, through a close reading of major texts, how critical stances are produced by literary images, and reveals the debate on Israeli masculinity as it intertwines with issues such as militarism and nationalism, the body, gender issues, intergenerational relations, and the Israeli landscape." —Israel Studies Review

“Rachel Harris’s surprising—and, some will find, deeply troubling—book asks why recent Israeli novelists use the narrative device of a central character’s suicide to raise fundamental questions about the changing nature of Israeli society. ... Everyone interested in the future of Israel should read her book.” —Cary Nelson, coeditor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel

"Harris’s primary vantage point onto Zionist culture is Israeli Hebrew works of fiction that emerged during a period, beginning in the 1970s, in which Zionist ideological norms were increasingly being questioned in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur/October War and the controversial Israeli invasion of Lebanon that followed nearly a decade later. Sitting at the intersection of literary studies and cultural history, Harris draws from historians Yael Zerubavel and Nurit Gertz, among others, in arguing that 'any analysis of a text must combine a study of the product, in this case a literary text, with knowledge about the cultural codes of the society that produced it.' The meanings of suicide in the literary texts that are Harris’s focus are thus visible only when one takes into consideration shifting political and cultural norms that were emerging beyond the literary realm." —Liora Halperin, H-Judaic