Awarded the 2014 Brenner prize
CORNER PEOPLE shuttles back and forth in time. In the novel's present, Dvori is a fifty-year-old substitute teacher with an alcohol problem who lives alone in the Haifa apartment where she grew up, writing her family's story on an old Olivetti typewriter. She befriends a jackal that has been dislocated by urban sprawl and has found its way into her yard.
In the novel's past, Dvori is the eight-year-old daughter of struggling Holocaust survivors from Hungary and an aspiring writer. Late one night she hears a knock on the door.
Though at first she fears that it is the Nazis, instead she finds her great-aunt, Esther-nayne, who has managed to escape Soviet-controlled Hungary and has arrived in Israel with nothing but the clothes on her back. Elegant, wild, and full of laughter, Esther-nayne carries with her the spirit of the great European cities and the secrets of the past.
Ilriko, Dvori’s tough grandmother, who will not speak of her painful past, rules the household with an iron fist and takes care of Anna, Dvori’s mentally ill, infantilized mother. Letzi, Dvori’s father, is consumed with frustration and rage over being a prisoner in his own life, where he is stuck living with a sick wife and her parents. His relationship with Dvori borders on the incestuous.
Over several years, the cramped and constrained life of this family opens up to the changes that Esther-nayne brings along with her. Esther-nayne exposes young Dvori to the world of literature and the power of writing. She gives her an old typewriter for her bat-mitzvah and commands her to write. But along with the newfound happiness that Esther-nayne brings, questions about the war begin to surface, with suspicions and tensions about what she did and did not do in those dark days. Why did she save strangers instead of her own family?
Rights Sold :
Italy: Viterbo, Stamp Alternativa; Israel: HaKibbutz
“The novel is utterly convincing in the segue from the child Dvori, who lives in a world of imagination and stories, to the grown-up Dvori, who continues to dwell in her childhood home, afraid of the world….In her adult life as well she feels every word has taste and smell and color. Writing is in fact one of the novel's central themes. Dvori is writing her family's story to give voice to the 'corner people', but at the same time – to finally banish them and their Holocaust stories. The novel is then perhaps an escape from the familial story, and perhaps an escape back into it. This double escape is carried out here with talent and with courage, and it gives the novel complexity and richness.” – Avrahahm Balaban, Ha'aretz
"Esty G. Hayim, a leading second-generation author and one of Israel's most talented women writers, dives into the depths of pain with sensitivity and with humor in this excellent new novel." – Yaron Avituv, Makor Rishon
“Writing her own story and that of her family turns into Dvori's life mission, as she creates her world and carves out her place in it …. Writing is her refusal to live the reality that was forced upon her, but it is also a form of total acceptance; it is the touching attempt to gain control over the world by documenting it.” – Asaf Valdan, Yekum Tarbut
“[B]old and painful writing…deeply rooted in Western literature and culture, [Hayim] demonstrates throughout the novel that the world of literature is her home turf.” – Shirly Sela-Levavi, Iton 77