The Pure Element of Time

Overview

"Published in Hebrew as Havalim in 1998, The Pure Element of Time is a fictionalized autobiography about a writer's development." "Be'er was born in 1945, in an old Jerusalem neighborhood, the only child of an Orthodox but religiously eccentric family. The boy, who inherited an aesthetic sense from his parents, grew up to be a poet and novelist, who, in this book, seeks to reconstruct his parents' personalities, their peculiar relationship, and their influence on him as a person and a writer." The Pure Element of Time is constructed in the form ...
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Paperback (Trans. from the Hebrew)
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The Pure Element of Time

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NOOK Book (eBook - Trans. from the Hebrew)
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Overview

"Published in Hebrew as Havalim in 1998, The Pure Element of Time is a fictionalized autobiography about a writer's development." "Be'er was born in 1945, in an old Jerusalem neighborhood, the only child of an Orthodox but religiously eccentric family. The boy, who inherited an aesthetic sense from his parents, grew up to be a poet and novelist, who, in this book, seeks to reconstruct his parents' personalities, their peculiar relationship, and their influence on him as a person and a writer." The Pure Element of Time is constructed in the form of a triptych, in which the two end panels frame the central and principal scene. The first part focuses primarily on the narrator's grandmother, a living archive of the family's history, as well as a natural storyteller whose tales entrance her grandson. The third part, which occurs principally after his father's death, depicts the author's first steps as a writer. The middle part, the heart of the book, interweaves Be'er's childhood and adolescence with the story of his parents' marriage - a second and late marriage for both, into which each brought a difficult burden from the past. The deepest, most significant relationship is the one between the boy and his mother, with whom he forms an alliance - opposing his embittered father - which is never broken. Be'er reveals his mother as the book's true heroine, for she shapes her son's character and sets him on his path as a writer.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Haim Be'er is both writer and narrator of this memoir-novel tracing the upbringing of a Jewish boy from a religious Jerusalem family and his formation as a writer. Born into an Orthodox family in 1945, Haim is an only child and the sole recipient of a vast flood of stories. His maternal grandmother, suffocatingly pious and stubborn, teaches herself to read and regales Haim with tales of their European forefathers, some real and some legendary. His mother, a rebel who abandoned the ultra-Orthodox Hungarian Houses where she grew up and lost two daughters before she gave birth to Haim, is also self-educated and fiercely independent. Her relationship with Haim's father, a devoted synagogue-goer and a fearful refugee from Soviet anti-Semitic attacks, is strained and difficult. Underlying the marital tensions between mother and father and the strife between mother and grandmother is the tension between ultra-religious Jews and secular Zionists. But none of Be'er's characters are merely types: kibbutznik Zionist Uncle Jacob supports no political movement, and Haim's devout Sabbath-observing father ultimately does not believe in God. Divided into three loosely chronological sections, the novel tracks Haim's gradual assertion of writerly independence and the development of his literary career. So clamorous are his family members, however, that they nearly drown out Haim's story. Be'er's experiment yields an intricate blend of human relationships, aspirations and-most candidly-limitations, but the blend of fact and fiction leads to some murky storytelling. Perhaps most compelling is Be'er's take on Israeli history from the perspective of the country's Orthodox minority. (Dec. 20) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
As much memoir as fiction, this 1998 novel by a highly regarded contemporary Israeli writer charts a young writer’s progress through the worlds of his childhood and his family’s cherished memories and traditions to his emergence as a published novelist. Protagonist Haim Be’er himself offers crisp characterizations of his doting grandmother (a loquacious repository of legends and stories learned in the European shtetls), "independent" (and often impatient) mother, and passive father, a perpetually traumatized survivor of Russian pogroms. There are detailed allusions to Be’er’s (as yet untranslated) earlier works, along with discursive analyses of the natures of memory and creativity. But it’s also filled with vivid domestic episodes, brisk dialogue, and a moving appreciation of the mixed need to emerge from, and still belong to, the worlds of one’s fathers and mothers.
From the Publisher
"This poignant narrative — part memoir, part novel — chronicles the upbringing of one of Israel's preeminent writers, recounting the relationships and tensions that shaped him . . . With vibrant prose, [Be'er] tells the story of a writer who transcends personal and social limitations to create lasting art." —Nextbook

“[A]n intricate blend of human relationships, aspirations and—most candidly—limitations. . . . Most compelling is Be’er’s take on Israeli history from the perspective of the country's Orthodox minority.”
—Publishers Weekly

“A probing, splendid novel.”—Hadassah

“[A]n autobiographical novel . . . revealing the unique familial and social influences that sparked the imagination of the young writer.”—Translation Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author

HAIM BE’ER was born in Jerusalem in 1945 to an Orthodox family. He began his literary career as a proofreader and was a newspaper columnist for many years. He presently works as an editor at Am Oved Publishers. A writer of prose and poetry, he has received several literary awards, including the Bernstein Prize, one of Israel’s most prestigious literary prizes. He has published three novels, one book of poetry, and a book of nonfiction.
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