The Latest Work of Israel’s Leading Science-Fiction Writer Doesn’t Live Up to Its Promise

Published last year, ha-Lashon Noshlah (“Tongue Untangled”), is the latest work of Shimon Adaf, probably the Jewish state’s best-known author of science fiction and fantasy. While written for adults, its elaborate plot has at its center one of Adaf’s previous works of children’s fantasy, which in turn plays with the biblical story of Abraham and the realities of modern Israel. Michael Weingrad revisits the earlier book and reviews the new one, while taking stock of Adaf’s career:

For two decades, Adaf has seemed on the verge of producing a great work of Hebrew fantastica. He is a particularly fine poet, with tremendous lyrical gifts. Yet his fantasy and science fiction novels (I have not read his detective trilogy, now translated into English) all tend to recede into self-referentiality and cryptic language games, gesturing towards accomplishment unfulfilled; . . . while occasionally studded with passages of beautiful and atmospheric lyricism, and kernels of clever references and self-referentiality, [these works] are ultimately literature-department conceits, clothed in genre tropes and not particularly well worked out in either philosophical or novelistic terms.

The narrative flaws seen in [the earlier book] are also here: belated expositions and backstory infodumps in place of narrative suspense and resolution, sudden and arbitrary realizations on the part of the characters, narrative logic filled in with talkiness rather than action. Adaf’s career-long obsession with the nature of language ironically fails to appreciate the literary effectiveness of silence.

And then there is Adaf’s problematic theology:

This typology of normative religious tradition as oppressive and narrow-minded, while outsiders are benevolent and independent-minded runs through the book. Rabbis and Orthodox Jews in Adaf’s fiction often tend to be racists and bigots. The main agent of the sadistic angels in the book is an underground organization of fanatical monotheists—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—who want to uproot all idolatry from the world. The organization is run by a far-right Israeli Jew. It takes a certain ideological perspective to make an Israeli organization that unites Muslims, Christians, and Jews the bad guys. Yet, as Lucinda tells one rabbi, idolatry is not bad. It is a form of magic that can be used for good purposes.

Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: Fantasy, Israeli literature, Science fiction

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University