Nava Semel - Biographical Note

I began "writing" stories even before I knew how to read and write. This, by simply telling them to whoever was willing to listen. My childhood, in a white city by the beach of the Mediterranean, called Tel Aviv, was filled with family stories. Not only my own strange family saga engulfed me, but also I was constantly surrounded by people who poured into Israel from four corners of the world, speaking incredible languages and carrying so many personal fates.

Like my parents who emigrated after the Holocaust from Europe, people were united by a dream to start a new page in Jewish history in an independent state, through Hebrew, a language that was a "sleeping beauty" for two thousand years.

I am a typical child of the 50s, driven by an ambition to achieve a real Israeli identity and become a part of a new generation. Our parent's hopes, sometimes unrealistic ones, were laid upon our shoulders. Ours was the task to take responsibility and ensure the future. We were supposed to compensate for the horrors of the past.

As I grew older and began my writing career, these people and their tragic stories became my central literary theme. Finally, I found the courage to let myself feel the shadow of the Holocaust that haunted not only my own mother who survived the most horrendous place called Auschwitz, but was cast over a whole country. (HAT OF ‎GLASS, 1984)

To the painful dialogue between parents and children I return again and again in my books. How is our present life affected by what happened before we were born? Is it possible to open up to each other after such tragedy? Where does the real power of survival come from? 

Writing is the process of digging deep into my soul, like moving up and down in a mysterious elevator. I am in constant search to understand my Israeli identity versus being a Jew. In what ways are we the descendants of a painful inheritance? (BRIDE ON PAPER 1996)

Through my characters and plots I find myself confronting the dark corners of myself - shame, guilt and fears. But once a book is finished, I find to my amazement, that my secret ability to enjoy the precious gifts of life is also being tested. Therefore, I'm grateful for whatever I have and cherish it every day of my life.

Children are the main protagonists in my books, even those who are targeted towards adults. I identify with a child's innocence and his wondrous gift to observe reality with truthfulness and honesty, which grown-ups unfortunately lose sometimes. Gershona (BECOMING GERSHONA 1988) reveals her family secrets, discovering that questions about love, loyalty and abandonment have more than one answer. Hadara wishes to fly as far away from her loneliness and fear of death (FLYING LESSONS 1990). Yotam, a boy suffering from Down syndrome, still sees the world as a magical place and touches the hearts of his family with his unconditional love (THE CHILD BEHIND THE EYES 1986).

The adults in my books carry within them a fragile child, struggling to understand their chaotic Israeli existence and to correspond with the past towards a better future. (NIGHT GAMES 1993)

In a way, I'm also still a child who isn't satisfied with the reality taking place in front of his eyes, seeking other meaning hidden behind it.

I always hope to reach a reader who still believes in profound relationship and in the power of the human touch to embrace us, soothe our pain and provide perhaps the only reason for our existence. As long as such readers exist somewhere, I will keep on writing. 

Israel, summer 1999



© All rights reserved to NAVA SEMEL 2017