GROSSMAN, AVRAHAM

GROSSMAN, AVRAHAM (1936– ), Israeli historian. Grossman focuses on the cultural, intellectual, and social world of the Ashkenazi and French rabbinical sages in the early Middle Ages. He was born in the moshavah of Mishmar ha-Yarden. In 1966 he graduated in Jewish history and Talmud from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, receiving his M.A. in 1967 and his Ph.D. in 1974; he did postdoctoral work in London and Oxford in 1975. From 1969 to 1972 he taught Jewish history at the University of the Negev (now Ben-Gurion University) and in 1973–74 taught at the Hebrew University. In 1976 he became a lecturer there and in 1986 a professor. From 1991 to 1992 he was the head of the Department of Jewish History. Grossman was visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Ohio Universities. He was a member of numerous academic committees and editorial boards. He published more than 100 articles and books, among them, The First Ashkenazi Wise Men (1981); The Jewish Community during the Middle Ages (1988); The First French Wise Men (1995) and Pious and RebelliousJewish Women in Medieval Europe (2001). He received various awards for his work, including the Bialik Award. In 2003 he was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish history. (Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.) GROSSMAN, DAVID GROSSMAN, DAVID (1954– ), Israeli writer. Born in Jerusalem, Grossman studied philosophy and theater at the Hebrew University. He began a 25-year career at Kol Israel (Israel Broadcasting Authority) at the age of ten, as a correspondent for youth programs. He published his first book of prose, a collection of stories entitled Raẓ ("The Jogger"), in 1983. This was followed by the novel Ḥiyukh ha-Gedi (1983; Smile of the Lamb, 1990); Ayen Erekh Ahavah (1986; See Under Love, 1989); a non-fiction, politically oriented work Ha-Zeman ha-Zahov (1987; Yellow Wind, 1988); Sefer ha-Dikduk ha-Penimi (1991; The Book of Intimate Grammar, 1994); Yesh Yeladim Zig Zag (1994; The Zigzag Kid, 1997); She-Tihiyi Li Sakkin (1998; You Shall be my Knife, 2002); Ba-Guf Ani Mevinah (2002; Her Body Knows, 2005). One of the most prominent writers of his generation, Grossman also wrote a number of books for children and young readers, including Du Krav (1982; Duel, 1998) and Itamar Mikhtav ("The Itamar Letter," 1986). Among his works are also the play Gan Riki (1988; Riki's Playground) and non-fiction books such as Mavet ke-Derekh Hayyim (2003; "Death as a Way of Life"). Grossman is one of the leading heirs of the so-called "New Wave" in Israeli literature, whose oeuvre marks a turning point in Hebrew fiction. His writing correlates historically with the change in the political climate after the rise to power of the Likud Party. It addresses political and social issues, protesting time and again against the occupation of the territories, the use of violence, and the mentality of the new establishment. His first novel, Smile of the Lamb, attempts to shed light on Israeli society following the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. The story unfolds through a dual perspective, that of the Israeli Uri Leniado and, alternately, that of Hilmi, an old Arab. Interwoven in the narrative are essayistic sections, which give vent to Grossman's feelings about the occupation and the humiliation of the Arab population. Following this highly political prose work, Grossman published his most ambitious work of fiction, Ayen Erekh Ahavah. Bordering often on the grotesque, Grossman addresses the Holocaust while reflecting on the very (im-) possibilty of writing about it. Grossman uses sophisticated techniques: the first part of the novel is related from the point of view of Momik, a sensitive, imaginative child growing up in Jerusalem amid Holocaust survivors. Momik creates his own private myth about the Nazi beast, which he attempts to understand better and fight in his own little kingdom, in the cellar. The second part handles in a poetic-fantastic manner the fate of the well-known Polish-Jewish author bruno schulz , who was murdered by the Germans. The third part relates Anschel Wasserman's (Momik's grandfather) strategy of survival in the camp, by telling the Nazi commander in charge stories after stories and keeping him in suspense. The fourth part, fragmentary and postmodernistic, is structured as an encyclopedia, listing and explaining a variety of words or concepts and omitting deliberately the entry "Love." Grossman attempts to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy and shatter the reader's illusion of certainty and knowledge.   The following novel, The Book of Intimate Grammar, is far more modest in its artistic aims: it does not seek to handle the metahistorical issues of a generation, neither the Holocaust nor the Arab-Israeli conflict. Grossman focuses on the childhood of Israelis who grew up in Jerusalem in the 1950s through an atypical but also typical Israeli family. The father survived the labor camp in Russia; the mother is an orphan who attended to the needs of her siblings. This historical-biographical background shaped their lives; Grossman is interested in the psychological effect of the past on their present lives, not – as in the previous novel – in a historiosophical account of a collective issue. From this point of view, the novel is closer to the earlier prose works of yehoshua kenaz (for instance, After the Holidays) or to Yeshayahu Koren's novella Levayah ba-Ẓohorayim ("Funeral at Noon"). The familial context is seen through the eyes of Aharon, a 14-year-old boy, and it is his story of adolescence and growing up, oscillating between pain and humor, reality and fantasy. She-Tihiyi Li Sakkin depicts a universal theme, that of a man's love for a woman whom he never meets. This epistolary novel deals, as it were, with the second phase of growing up, with the midlife crisis. The correspondence between Yair and Miriam pointedly disregards political-historical subjects. What matters more are the changes observed in nature, the blossoms of spring, the first rain. The letters exchanged by the protagonists, both belonging to the Ashkenazi elite, shed light on their lives, their dreams and passions, though ending in a rather anti-romantic manner. Grossman suggests that truth, art, and beauty exist in writing only. The protagonists prefer the narcissistic expedient of self-expression in writing to a physical encounter. The novel is an important milestone in Grossman's development as a writer; it is a highly introverted novel which is far from offering the reader shallow entertainment. Grossman's novella Ba-Guf Ani Mevinah takes this process of introversion further: published during the second Intifada, when Israeli readers were expecting yet another political book from Grossman, author of the highly topical Yellow Wind (1987) and Sleeping on a Wire (1992), the story again deals with the relationship between imagination and reality, showing that the life of fantasy is perhaps more intense and rewarding than actual life. Sitting by the bedside of her dying mother, the daughter relates the mother's life-story: When you read it out to me, I have the feeling that these things really happened, says the mother. Many questions remain unanswered, others have the aura of mystery, suggesting that much in human existence remains inexplicable and perhaps unutterable. Grossman's books have been translated into many languages, and he is undoubtedly one of the best known Israeli authors abroad. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Lowin, "D. Grossman's Useful Fictions," in: Jewish Book Annual, 50 (1992), 114–27; N.B. Sokoloff, "D. Grossman: Translating the 'Other' in Momik," in: Israeli Writers Consider the Outsider (1993), 37–56; G. Morahg, "Creating Wasserman: The Quest for a New Holocaust Story," in: Judaism 51:1 (2002), 51–60; M.S. Bernstein, "The Child as Collective Subconsciousness," in: Shofar, 23:2 (2005), 65–79. (Gershon Shaked (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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