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Yonatan Berg

Poetry, Wesleyan University Press, 2019

Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award 2019

This poetic collection is an honest and deeply reflective look at life overshadowed by disputed settlements and political upheaval in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yonatan Berg is a poet from Israel and the youngest person ever awarded the Yehuda Amichai Prize. This collection brings together the best poems from his three published collections in Hebrew, deftly translated by Joanna Chen. His poetry recounts his upbringing on an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and service in a combat unit of the Israeli military, which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He grapples with questions of religion and tradition, nationalism, war and familial relationships. The book also explores his conceptual relationship with Biblical, historical, and literary characters from the history of civilization, set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean landscape. Berg shares an insider’s perspective on life in Israeli today.


Rights Sold:

World rights: Wesleyan University Press


“Yonatan Berg's poetry is fervent and relentless in its language, each poem moving forward in a series of proclamations that are as absolute as they are heartbreaking, "We told ourselves it would pass./We put everything in place, near/the couches, the armchairs. On the balcony, flowers/spiraled towards the sun." In the midst of this book's almost unbearable traumas, its attention to that which is rapturous and romantic about the natural world asks us to rethink how our wars kill us and our ability to see the beauty of the planet on which we live. These are necessary translations. This is a beautiful book.” --Jericho Brown, author of THE NEW TESTAMENT (Copper Canyon Press)


“Yonatan Berg’s poetry moves between roughness and tenderness. His military poems are written with boyish insouciance, mingling horror with grief. A serene moment swiftly becomes an elegy. Bitter ambivalence makes the song of this poet. I like this song.” --Adam Zagajewski, author of ASYMMETRY (FSG)

"Here is a book that shows us the urgency and fear of a life in a time of crisis, an overview of life in a settlement, on the occupied territory from the perspective of a person born in a settlement. Here is a voice that speaks honestly about guilt, a voice that admits 'I am a person with no homeland.' It is a powerful, sobering book. How does Yonatan Berg do this? He combines the nuance of attentiveness with the clarity of perspective. He combines a spell of an incantatory chant and the intimacy of a whisper. His is a voice from a place that overflows with crimes of history―but longs for justice. His is a voice that shows us perversities of silence. ―Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic


“Frayed Light offers readers both a poetic journey and new ways in which to think about the tension between innocence and experience, while enacting what it means to hold one’s deepest beliefs up to an inquiring light. Poets must work within the limits of language, yet one senses in these poems that what Berg is seeking in his explorations is a bridge, an intimacy that will overcome barriers of language, religion, and otherness itself.  -- Janice Weizman, World Literature Today

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