Australian Jewish News 2009
A book review by Dr. Yaffa Weisman, HUC-JIR - Los Angeles on Nava Semel's "And The Rat Laughed."  May/June 2009 issue of the AJL Newsletter

The development of the five narratives weaving around one another is astutely achieved…A powerful and deeply arresting novel…As a measure of Semel’s skill, what may seem to be fragmented, mirrors exactly the brokenness of the grandmother, as she endeavors to put the shards of her memories together. We are better for listening to them.
Australia Jewish News, 12.12.08

And the Rat Laughed is finally given translation!... it resembles a relay race in which the characters transfer memories from one another, while travelling on the axis of time.
Jewish Telegraph, 5.12.08

And The Rat Laughed is a brilliant and utterly original examination of how the legacy of the Holocaust will continue to haunt the subconscious of future generations. It is poetic in the deepest, most elusive, sense of that word, and infinitely disturbing. Nava Semel is an exquisite writer whose heart hears sounds that most others are deaf to.
Martin Sherman – British Playwright, Amazon UK, 2.2.09

"And the Rat Laughed" is painful to read. I found myself resisting being swept up in the emotions it raises, but the deceptively simply writing is so powerful, it pulled me into the story.
The Reporter, USA, Friday, April 03, 2009

This strange, evocative, grim, and brilliant book will grab you in the first five pages and will not let you go. You may want to put it down, because the experiences you will read will bring you to a depth of pain and of evil you have likely not experienced before; but even if you walk away to try to heal yourself, as I initially did, the vividly drawn characters and their experiences will not leave you; you will return to read on because the author weaves a story of such intricacy and beauty, even as it tears at your soul, that you will be compelled to continue to the last word. You will be utterly caught up in this extraordinary narrative that spans generations, centuries, and realities.

I have not seen equaled Nava Semel’s depiction of the personal agony experienced by a survivor whose time has come to tell her story. The exquisitely sensitive understanding of this writer, herself not a survivor but of the Second Generation, brings us inside the mind of a woman who has hidden, perhaps even from herself, the most tragic and terrifying details of her childhood experiences in hiding during the Holocaust. When her granddaughter’s insistent need to know forces her story out, in truth to the reader and in parable to her granddaughter, we follow her into the depths of her underground hiding place and struggle with her against the darkness of her tormentor, the son of the couple who agrees to hide her.

Her granddaughter’s innocent misunderstanding of the details of her story—the child assumes her grandmother’s hiding family made a charming, nicely furnished hideaway under the ground—makes its truth all the more painful and opens the discussion of how little we can really know of survivors’ experience despite their best attempts at testimony.

The narrator of the future, trying intently to understand a forgotten and hidden past, brings us full circle back to the event itself, saving us from unrelieved despair by introducing us to the journal of the priest who saved the sanity, and perhaps the life itself, of the little girl in hiding. The virtuousness of this priest, this precious spark of light in the abyss that was the Holocaust, allows us to see our way through the difficult journey Semel takes us on, and raises the essential question of how such good can coexist with such evil.

This is a remarkable book. Read it. You will not forget it.  
Dr. Karen Shawn, NY, USA, December 2008–12–08

The story in this novel is a powerful story in its own right, but as a vehicle for the power of memory it is outstanding. This is a beautifully written novel which explores a range of complex issues and invites the reader to question their own understanding of events and how they might effectively communicate into the future.
I am certain that this novel will feature in my `best reads' for 2009.
Jennifer Cameron-Smith,, February 2008

The real hero of this powerful book is memory itself. What's the future of Holocaust memory and how will we remember this horrible event in the years to come? Nava Semel uses powerful tools in order to send her readers onto a journey through time.
Semel's style, although experimental, is exceptional and always captivating. She elegantly maneuvers between different genres like dairy entries, futuristic internet research, and a collection of poetry, dreams and legends. All are weaved together into one overwhelming story: the girl and the rat who was her sole companion and comfort and who taught her how to laugh again.
Semel does not spare her readers by taking them into the horrid experienced of the little Jewish girl, but she does it with love and compassion. This book is he most unusual and inspiring book about the Holocaust I have ever read.
Dr. Alexandra Nocke, Berlin,, December 2008


One of the most interesting new books.
Buchhändler, August 2008

Nava Semel's book is a catalogue of the options one has with dealing with crimes, but also with human behavior and memories.
WDR 5, 2008

In the eyes of Nava Semel, poetry needs to leave room for the unseen and the unsaid. Art in general is a road leading to the unknown. Reaching this road is Semel's actual objective, even an aesthetic program. It is close to the ideas of Paul Celan and is maybe the only appropriate way to deal with the unimaginable, has accumulated behind the word Holocaust.
Karl-Josef Müller, Jüdische Zeitung, 10.08



How can one recount the Holocaust? This is certainly one of the major questions facing any writer who tries to write about it. How can one transform the horrific, inconceivable reality into fiction? How does one create a feeling of authenticity in the reader? How can one avoid banality and disturb him without resorting to sentimental manipulation? For Nava Semel, the Holocaust is a central theme and in her new novel she tackles it again. She uses original, experimental literary tools... and I must say straightaway that she succeeds very well. In my opinion, this book is one of the most powerful, challenging and interesting books on the Holocaust to be written by the second generation.
Haya Hoffman, Yediot Aharonot

Nava Semel is not new to this highly problematic but fascinating area [of the Holocaust]. As with many members of the “second generation,” it is an intrinsic part of her life and work... She is teeming with ideas… Nava Semel has great daring and displays an originality which enables her both to smile and to be constantly aware of the unbridgeable gap... The Rat Laughs makes one want to discuss and relate to it, it shows restraint in conducting its literary experiments, and is a credit to its author.
Yoram Melcer, Ma’ariv

Naval Semel deserves admiration for her courage in tackling such a difficult subject, and using such varied literary devices.
Miri Paz, Globes

One of the strongest Holocaust books I have ever read. I could not put it down. Nava Semel has written a sweeping and demanding literary work which deals with memories of the Holocaust from the distance of time.. [It is about] a small girl during that time, but it is also the story of “Everychild” in every war in every era. It is stunning in its power, and leaves the reader amazed at the way in which it unfolds.
Adiva Geffen, ibooks

Where does memory go after we die? This is one of the important questions that Semel raises with great success in this book.
Anat Bar-Lev Efrati, La’Isha

A fascinating book, one of the rare cases where an author has written in such a marvelous way about the Holocaust, without the Holocaust being overtly present in the text.
Yoel Rappel, Kol Israel

I read this book literally with bated breath. It is a profound, angry, original novel written in a variety of styles: as story, legend, Internet poetry, futuristic fantasy and diary, and it also deals with memory... I recommend that you read it and discover that there is real writing in contemporary Hebrew literature.             
“Shay Leshabbat”, Radio Program

All the parts [of this book] blend together into a captivating, exciting and stunning whole which continues to haunt the reader for a long time... The narrative blazes a powerful path for itself, using disguises and masks. It makes sophisticated use of words and the silences between them, of vagueness, hints and broken sentences, as if to make the reader’s life easier, to tone down the gloom, while at the same time the broken rhythm leaves a deep impression, like the words engraved on a tombstone... Nava Semel does not spare herself any more than she spares her readers, and the book is characterized by  truth, feeling, mental and emotional effort, and a purging pain.
Judith Rotem, Yedioth Ahronoth

This is a powerful novel about a story seeking to be told... and it tries to tell this story every time anew and differently.

Nava Semel builds the horror up gradually, sometimes with irony, sometimes in a kind of nonsense verse, sometimes with love. From genre to genre, the story gains in power, until at the end it emerges into the light, even though it was born in darkness. This is a disturbing, moving novel which touches the soul.                                  
Ruth Almog, Haaretz

A masterpiece… Read it again and again, each time you will discover new layers of meanings.
Yochi Brandeis, dbook , Internet book site

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