Between Life and Death

Between Life and Death, by Yoram Kaniuk - 9781632060921.jpg
Between Life and Death, by Yoram Kaniuk - 9781632060921.jpg

Between Life and Death


by Yoram Kaniuk

Translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshav

Finalist for the 2017 PEN Translation Prize

The final literary testament of “one of Israel’s greatest and least celebrated writers” (Nicole Krauss), Between Life and Death is a startlingly brave, funny, poetic, and moving autobiographical novel about the four months Yoram Kaniuk spent in a coma near the end of his life.

Book Details

Hardcover List Price: $22.99 • ISBN: 9781632060921 • Publication: 9/13/16 • 5” x 7.125” • 208 pages • $22.99 • Fiction: Medical / End-of-Life / Israeli / Jewish / Autofiction • Territory: World • eBook ISBN: 9781632060938

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About the Book

The final literary testament of “one of the most innovative, brilliant novelists in the Western World” (New York Times), Between Life and Death is a startlingly brave, funny, poetic, and moving autobiographical novel about the four months Yoram Kaniuk spent in a coma near the end of his life.

In Between Life and Death, famed Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk describes the four months during which he lay unconscious in a Tel Aviv hospital, hovering between the world of the living and that of the dead. Told in an arresting, dreamlike style that blends playfulness with fearless honesty, Kaniuk attempts to penetrate his own lost consciousness and understand what led him to fight for his life with such tenacity.

Shifting between memory and illusion, imagination and testimony, Kaniuk inquires into the place of death in society, the lust for life, and the force of human relationships. He also writes movingly about the Holocaust survivors of his childhood neighborhood, and the battles of the 1948 War of Independence, in which he fought. Full of renewed vitality at the age of seventy-four, Kaniuk announced his rebirth in Between Life and Death, and left us a treasure of world literature that is sure to become a classic.



“Yoram Kaniuk is one of the most innovative, brilliant novelists in the Western World.”

The New York Times

“Of the novelists I have discovered in translation... the three for whom I have the greatest admiration are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Peter Handke, and Yoram Kaniuk.”

—Susan Sontag

“One of Israel’s greatest and least celebrated writers”

—Nicole Krauss, The New Yorker

One of the masters of contemporary fiction [because of] his inordinate technical skill, fecundity of incident and character, and overall intensity.”

Chicago Tribune

“It’s a shame that this recently deceased multi-award-winning Israeli author isn’t as well known here as, say, Amos Oz or A.B. Yehoshua, because as evidenced by this final novel he was a prose master. Written after he awoke from a four-month-long coma, it fictionalizes that experience in surprisingly absorbing detail. Unpitying, observational, and fiercely flowing, the clinical account of the protagonist’s hospitalization feels almost like a beautiful ballet, but what really makes it work is that it’s interwoven sentence by sentence with near hallucinatory memories of the speaker’s life in Palestine and then Israel. (Kaniuk himself was born in Tel Aviv in 1930 and fought in the War of Independence.) The result is both a rich tapestry of a life gone by and a contemporary appreciation of a near-death experience. How did Kaniuk manage it? “Maybe because I grew up woven in that sea and the melody was in me,” says his alter ego at one point, fittingly. VERDICT Captivating for many readers.”

—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Classic… Kaniuk’s book joins a strange genre of books about experiences from inside diseases, such as Over My Head by Claudia L Osborn. But Between Life and Death shares more with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, and both share the intensely personal and yet fascinatingly general experience of those who’ve been incapacitated by disease.… Harshav’s translation is… excellent. And it elegantly brings forth both Kaniuk’s peculiarly beautiful style and the Israeli culture and life that he both disdained and loved.”

 —Ilana Masad, The Guardian

“In the highly regarded Israeli writer’s final work — he died in 2013 — Kaniuk has crafted a dreamlike, autobiographical novel describing the four months he spent comatose in a Tel Aviv hospital, somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead. A mix of memory, illusion and imagination, the writing shifts from recollection of a childhood spent among Holocaust survivors to a retelling of the 1948 War of Independence to a reflection on what it means to die. Originally published in Israel in 2007, Between Life and Death now has a chance to entrance American readers thanks to Harshav’s faithful and lyrical English translation.”

—Victor Wishna, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“Yoram Kaniuk, who passed away in 2013, was for a long time the enfant terrible of a generation of Israeli writers that included Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman. Less known to American readers than he deserves, Kaniuk is a strange and orthogonal writer, never lining up with the pieties his audience might be expected to harbor…. [Between Life and Death], published by Restless Books and ably translated by Barbara Harshav, takes as its subject Kaniuk’s four-month near-death interlude in a Tel Aviv hospital… The book’s style embodies this “betweenness,” proceeding with the associative logic of an anesthetic rather than an authorial consciousness. Kaniuk is in his head and out of his body, often at the same time…. There is something undeniably admirable in the work to turn suffering into art. The final words of Kaniuk’s epilogue constitute a goodbye, rather than a see you later: “And now, as an old man with cancer and a hernia and a destroyed belly, I leave you.” We are poorer for Kaniuk’s final exit, and reminded that the time between life and death is a wisp of a shadow that passes in the blink of an eye.”

—Ari Hoffman, Jewish Book Council

Between Life and Death [is] a striking and often powerfully visceral autobiographical novel”

—Scott Esposito, The Quarterly Conversation


About the Author

© Iris Nesher

© Iris Nesher

Yoram Kaniuk (1930-2013), one of Israel’s leading writers, was born in Tel Aviv. After being wounded in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, he moved to New York for ten years. A novelist, painter and journalist, Kaniuk published many novels, memoirs, short stories, non-fiction and books for children and youth. He was awarded many literary prizes, including the Ze’ev Prize for Children’s literature (1980), the Brenner Prize (1987), the Prix des Droits de l’Homme (France, 1997), the President’s Prize (1998), the Bialik Prize (1999), the Prix Mediterranée Etranger (2000), the Book Publishers Association’s Gold Book Prizes for five of his books (2005; 2010), the Newman Prize (2006) the Kugel Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2008), the France-Israel Foundation Award (2010), the prestigious Sapir Prize (2011) and the Italian WIZO Prize (2013). In 2011, Kaniuk received an Honorary Doctorate from Tel Aviv University, and, in 2012, the prestigious French decoration of Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. A feature film based on Adam Resurrected, directed by Paul Schrader, was released to critical acclaim in 2008. Kaniuk’s books have been published abroad in twenty languages.


About the Translator

Barbara Harshav has been translating works from French, German, Hebrew and Yiddish for over twenty years and has currently published over forty books of translation including works of poetry, drama, fiction, philosophy, economics, sociology, and history.