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David Shaḥar

SHAḤAR, DAVID (1926–1997), Hebrew writer. Shaḥar was born in Jerusalem, being the fifth generation of a Jerusalemite family. He studied at the Hebrew University and published his first book, a collection of stories Al Ha-Ḥalomot ("Concerning Dreams"), depicting a wide range of Jerusalemite characters, in 1955. This was followed by novels, stories, and books for children (Sodo shel Riki, 1961; rpt. 1988). Shaḥar's major work is Heikhal ha-Kelim ha-Shevurim ("The Palace of Shattered Vessels"), a work he wrote over 30 years, comprising eight volumes. Among these are Kayiẓ bi-Reḥov ha-Neviim (Summer in the Street of the Prophets, 1973), Ha-Masa le-Ur Kasdim (A Voyage to Ur of the Chaldees, 1978), Yom ha-Rozenet ("The Day of the Countess," French translation 1981), Ningal (French: 1985), Yom ha-Refaim ("The Day of the Ghosts," French: 1988) and Ḥalom shel Tammuz ("A Tammuz Night's Dream," French: 1989). This monumental work, one of the finest examples of the modern Hebrew picaresque, traces the changes in Israeli society and the transformations of the Zionist dream, focusing on a variety of figures living in Jerusalem, in the vicinity of Hanevi'im Street and the Geulah neighborhood, from the Ottoman period up to the 1970s. While the so-called Palmaḥ-Generation favored the realistic style and the writers of the 1960s advanced a symbolic-allegoric prose, Shaḥar deployed a narrative technique embracing satirical elements, dream-like scenes, comic episodes, reminiscences and kabbalistic allusions, creating an original poetic of mnemonics. Small wonder then that Shaḥar's work has been compared to Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Indeed, Shaḥar's writings enjoyed tremendous success in France. He was awarded the French Prix Médicis Etranger and was appointed Commandeur dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. A former chairman of the Hebrew Writers Association, he was honored in Israel with various prizes, including the Bialik and Agnon prizes. The last work of Shaḥar, who died in France, is the fragment El Har ha-Zeitim ("To The Mount of Olives," 1998). Shaḥar's prose has been translated into many languages, and information about translations is available at the ITHL website at


S. Katz, Ha-Ani ve-Giborav be-Sippurei D. Shahar (1975); M. Neige, "Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Work of D. Shahar," in: JeQ (1978), 41–46; N. Bersohn, "D. Shahar's Trilogy 'The Palace of Shattered Vessels'. A Combination of Literary Genres," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 6:1–2 (1980), 34–42; M. Puni, Mekorot Yehudiyyim ki-Ysodot Me'aẓẓevim bi-Yẓirato shel D. Shahar (1980); B. Keller, "La Jérusalem de D. Shahar," in: Foi et Vie, 89:1 (1990), 39–49; G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 5 (1998), 119–33; S. Katz, "Un Palais plein d'éclats de lumière cachés," in: Cahiers du Judaisme, 4 (1999), 115–23; O. Baziz, Ha-Kelim le-Olam Lo Yukhlu le-Hakhil et ha-Shefa: Ḥayyav vi-Yẓirato shel D. Shaḥar (2003); J. Hassin, "Bein Marcel Proust le-David Shaḥar," in: Ẓafon, 7 (2004), 99–122; M. Ginsburg Peled, Shattered Vessels: Memory, Identity and Creation in the Work of D. Shahar (2004); Sh. Zeevi, in: Mikarov, 14 (2004), 56–71.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.