Yoel Hoffmann

Born in Romania in 1937 to Austro-Hungarian Jewish parents, Hoffmann and his parents fled Europe for British Mandate Palestine. As a young man, Hoffmann left his home in Israel and traveled to Japan, where he spent two years living in a Zen monastery studying Chinese and Japanese texts with monks. He taught Eastern philosophy at the University of Haifa for many years and did not begin writing fiction until in his forties. Today he is widely regarded as Israel’s leading writer of avant-garde fiction. Six of his books have appeared in English with New Directions: Kastchen and Other Stories, Bernhardt, The Christ of Fish, The Heart is Katmandu, The Shunra and the Schmetterling, and Curriculum Vitae. Hoffmann’s honors include The Koret Jewish Book Award, the Bialik Prize, and the Prime Minister’s Prize.


Fiction by Yoel Hoffmann

Translated from the Hebrew by Peter Cole

Part novel and part memoir, Yoel Hoffmann’s Moods is flooded with feelings, evoked by his family, losses, loves, the soul’s hidden powers, old phone books, and life in the Galilee—with its every scent, breeze, notable dog, and odd neighbor. Carrying these shards is a general tenderness accentuated by a new dimension brought along with “that great big pill of Prozac.” Beautifully translated by Peter Cole, Moods is fiction for lovers of poetry and poetry for lovers of fiction—a small marvel of a book, and with its pockets of joy, a curiously cheerful book by an author who once compared himself to “a praying mantis inclined to melancholy.…
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Curriculum Vitae

Poetry by Yoel Hoffmann

Translated by Peter Cole

Yoel Hoffmann’s Curriculum Vitae is the remarkable summation of the writer’s life: his escape from the Holocaust; his arrival in Palestine; time in an orphanage; youth; two marriages; fatherhood; his studies of Japanese Buddhism; his travels; his ever-busy inner life. Curriculum Vitae begins quietly but becomes more and more hypnotic and amazing. Funny, gorgeous and utterly unique, Curriculum Vitae is Yoel Hoffmann’s triumphant look backward and inward: How stupid we are to let the world toss us from one place to another, while we need to speak to dentists and poets like warehouse clerks who keep an account of old equipment (bags here and belts there) and pile it up on the floor.…
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The Heart is Katmandu

Fiction by Yoel Hoffmann

Translated by Peter Cole

The Heart Is Katmandu tells a tale of new love—of paradise gained. Set in today’s Haifa and presented in 237 dream-like small chapters, it is a book in which shyness and stumbling tenderness emerge triumphant. Poet Peter Cole has made a beautiful translation, capturing Hoffmann’s intense and unfathomably original style. A starred Kirkus Review acclaimed the novel “Beautiful, humane, priceless.”
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The Christ of Fish

Fiction by Yoel Hoffmann

Yoel Hoffmann’s novel The Christ of Fish, revolving around its heroine Aunt Magda, offers a heart-stopping view into the soul of things. Hoffmann makes a beautiful, epiphanic mosaic out of 233 pieces of Aunt Magda’s life in Tel Aviv. Originally from Vienna, still speaking German after decades in Israel, and a widow, Aunt Magda has “divided her life into two periods: ’When my husband was alive’ and ’now.’” “Now,” ever elusive and ever inclusive in Hoffmann’s work, contains her childhood, her marriage, her nephew, her best friend Frau Stier, Wildegans’ poetry, apple strudel, two stolen handbags, Bing Crosby, a favorite café, and a gentleman admirer.…
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Fiction by Yoel Hoffmann

Set in 1940’s Palestine, Bernhard concerns a German-Jewish widower. Devastated by the loss of his wife, Bernhard disconsolately walks the streets of Jerusalem, considering Gandhi, analysis, the beauty of his wife Paula’s neck, his Arab neighbors, Kokoschka, the Messiah, and the inner life of his friend Gustav the plumber. As his hero tries to come to terms with his grief and the disasters of WWII, Hoffmann shows the slow remaking of an inner world.…
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The Shunra and the Schmetterling

Fiction by Yoel Hoffmann

Translated by Peter Cole

Edited by Adam Phillips

Shunra is Aramaic for “cat.” Schmetterling is German for “butterfly.” In Yoel Hoffmann’s new book, these and numerous other creatures, cultures, and languages meet in a magical shimmering hymn to childhood. Hoffmann traces his hero’s developing consciousness of the ways-and-wonders of the world as though he were peering through a tremendous kaleidoscope: all that was perceived, all that is remembered, is rendered in fluid fragments of color and light. With remarkable delicacy and sweep, Hoffmann captures childhood from the amazed inside out, and without the backward-looking wash of grown-up sentiment.…
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Katschen & The Book of Joseph

Fiction by Yoel Hoffmann

Katschen & The Book of Joseph makes an amazing American debut for Israeli writer Yoel Hoffmann. Intensely moving, the two novellas display the entirely original poetry and hypnotic verve of Hoffmann’s atomized language, which Rosmarie Waldrop has called “utterly enchanting––it is like nothing else.” “The Book of Joseph” tells the tragic story of a widowed Jewish tailor and his son in 1930s Berlin. “Katschen” gives an astounding child’s-eye view of a boy orphaned in Palestine.…
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Few writers see the world in more vivid colors than Hoffmann, and mournfulness is only one of his many “moods.” More often, he is besotted with the world, which he sees as the garment of the holy. And his rapt observations, in which ordinary sights rearrange themselves into surrealist tableaux, are intent on demonstrating the miraculousness of what we usually take for granted.

—Adam Kirsch, New York Review of Books

They are not so much meditations as obsessions, urgent enquiries into a frustrating but endlessly captivating mystery…Moods is not only about something, but that it is something vigorous and alive.

—Mona Gainer-Salim, Music & Literature

Hoffmann’s subject is the miracle of this most ordinary thing, and his prose is its revelation and praise.

—Jenny Hendrix, Forward


The New Yorker

I am confirmed in my admiration for Hoffmann’s oblique and elliptical style.

—W. G. Sebald

Hoffmann writes in a language of miracles.

American Book Review

Hoffmann’s is an exile literature in exile from itself: self-conscious, and humorously historicized, yet with none of its homage preserved obviously. In his pages, the oldest of folkish tropes are wryly revivified into a third literature, that of a new and Third East–an undiscovered continent of exotically compelling fictions.

—Joshua Cohen

Hoffmann is not just a good writer but a great one, with the ability to find, in the moment-to-moment dislocation of daily existence, epiphanies of revelatory force… What Hoffmann has achieved is a kind of magic.

The Chicago Tribune

Hoffmann is not just a good author, but a great one, with the ability to find, in the moment-to-moment dislocation of everyday existence, epiphanies of revelatory force.

—David Ulin, The Washington Post

One of Isreal’s finest contemporary writers.

Kirkus Reviews

Cryptic, mysterious even, lovely. Welcome to the novel that reads like poetry.

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