A Novel of Cosmopolitan Alexandria.

Yitzhak Gormezano Goren writes about his 1978 novel Alexandrian Summer, described at the time as “An achievement and innovation in Hebrew Literature,” and its belated translation into English; I thought the last couple of paragraphs were particularly interesting:

During the process of working with Yardenne Greenspan, the translator, I realized to my surprise that Alexandrian Summer is very difficult to render in another language and another mentality, mainly because of its use of multiple languages (English, French, Judeo-Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Italian and Arabic) that were typical to cosmopolitan Alexandria. As simple and naturalistic as its style seemed, on the surface, it was extremely important not to lose the poetic and mythical undertone. The translation and its editing helped in capturing the soul and essence of the book—that elusive and magical Mediterranean ambiance. But more than that—bestowing the work, in another language, with the right PACE! As a man of the theater, I recognize the importance of pace.

I must confess that when I wrote the novel back in the 1970s, I was very pleased with the simplicity of my Hebrew, devoid of flowery mannerism. But my editor at Am Oved publishing house insisted on “elevating” my style. I tried my best to simplify his changes, but living abroad meant every communication went through mail (no email in those good old days), and since it was my first novel, there was a limit to what I could accomplish. So the Hebrew version still has a few archaic elements I was forced to put up with—after all, as a young writer, I had to be thankful they’d even accepted my novel. Now, nearly forty years later, this fresh English version is a kind of vindication, closer to my initial intention, and has inspired me to republish the novel in Hebrew with some of those alterations. It may be that this extinct novel about a vanished Alexandria is coming back to life as a true “achievement and innovation in Hebrew literature.”

I’m glad he was finally able to get his style de-elevated!


  1. Thanks for a good tip. I’ve never heard of the book. From what I just read, the book has been long out of print and collectible. Am Oved reprinted it in 2016, in a ‘renewed’ (מחודשת) edition, whatever that means. That was after Am Oved had polled their readers for which of their old imprints they would like reissued; Alexandrian Summer came out first.

    A sample of the (new edition?) which I found online looks fun, though the language is definitely 20th century literary Hebrew, far from any spoken idiom. I don’t know how much it has been revised for the new edition. Doesn’t matter to me, since I am so used to reading in that register.

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