shalev

Meir Shalev

Bestselling Israeli Novelist & Writer
Columnist for Yediot Ahronot

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Concerning the Process of Writing
  • Between Antiquity and Modernity: Can the Hebrew Language Survive its Revival?
  • My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner
  • A Pigeon and a Boy: Love in Time of War
  • The Unreliable Storyteller
  • The Story of Ruth
  • The First Loves in the Bible: The Story of Jacob and Rachel
  • King David: From Abigail to Abishag


“Shalev delivers both startling imagery and passionate, original characters whose destinies we follow through love, loss, laughter and death”-NY Times Book Review

One of Israel’s most celebrated novelist, Meir Shalev was born in 1948 in Nahalal, Israel’s first moshav. He is a bestselling author in Israel, Holland, and Germany; and he has been translated into more than twenty languages. His books include A Pigeon and a Boy, The Loves of Judith (Four Meals), Fontanelle, Alone In the Desert, But A Few Days, and Esau.Russian Romance (The Blue Mountain) is one of the top five bestsellers in Israeli publishing history and was reprinted in 2011. Shalev’s writing is often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his ability to “create worlds inhabited by the richness of invention and obsessiveness of dreams” (NYTBR). He has written twelve children’s books, as well as four collections of essays.

Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible’s Intriguing Firsts is a book of essays about the bible (Doubleday, 2011). With a secular point of view, Shalev follows the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament, finding the first love ever mentioned in the text, the first kiss, first laugh, and the first hate. Surprising the reader at every turn, Shalev finds who dreamt the first dream, who was the first king, the first prophet, and first spy ever mentioned. Beginnings is Shalev’s second book about the bible. His previous book, The Bible Now (Tanach Achshav), was published in 1985. In 2011 he published a family memoir, My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner.

Meir Shalev is also a columnist with the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot and has given lectures on literature and the Hebrew language at Judaic programs nationwide.

Shalev is the recipientof the Juliet Club Prize (Italy); The Prime Minister’s Prize (Israel); The Chiavari (Italy); The Entholomogical Prize (Israel); The Wizo Prize in France, Israel and Italy; and The Brenner Prize of 2006-the highest Israeli literary recognition-for his novel, A Pigeon and a Boy (Random House, 2007). He studied Psychology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and produced and hosted several radio and television programs.

He lives in Jerusalem and in the north of Israel with his wife and children, where he is a motorcycle and jeep enthusiast.


One of Israel’s most celebrated novelist, Meir Shalev’s books include A Pigeon and a Boy, The Loves of Judith (Four Meals), Fontanelle, Alone In the Desert, But A Few Days, and Esau. Russian Romance (The Blue Mountain) is one of the top five bestsellers in Israeli publishing history and was reprinted in 2011. He has written twelve children’s books, as well as four collections of essays, including Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible’s Intriguing Firsts. In 2011 he also published a family memoir, My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner. Shalev is the recipient of the Juliet Club Prize (Italy); The Prime Minister’s Prize (Israel); The Chiavari (Italy); The Entholomogical Prize (Israel); The Wizo Prize in France, Israel and Italy; and The Brenner Prize of 2006-the highest Israeli literary recognition-for his novel, A Pigeon and a Boy (Random House, 2007). Shalev is also a columnist with the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot and has given lectures on literature and the Hebrew language at Judaic programs nationwide


THE LOVES OF JUDITH (Novel, 2012)
When the mysterious Judith arrives in a small agricultural village in Palestine in the 1930s, she attracts the attention of three men: Moshe, a widowed farmer; Globerman, a wealthy cattle dealer; and Jacob, who loses his wife–the most beautiful woman in the village–because of his obsession with Judith, who insists on living in a cowshed rather than settling down with any of her admirers. When she gives birth to Zayde, all three suitors consider him their son, and all help father him when Judith dies. Zayde, who narrates the story as an adult, carries a legacy from each man; but it is Jacob, who invites Zayde to a special meal once every decade, who helps him piece together the beguiling story of the singular woman who was his mother. Meir Shalev combines magical realism with the joys and secrets of village life in this novel of an unconventional family and the unexpected fruits of love.

MY RUSSIAN GRANDMOTHER AND HER AMERICAN VACUUM CLEANER (Memoir, 2011)
The true and unbelievable, funny and sad story of the special relationships between the author’s grandmother and the vacuum cleaner her brother-in-law sent her from America. The story of a unique, challenging lady fighting for the cleanliness of her poor house and the love of her poor husband, confronting dust and prejudice, mud and criticism, cows and relatives, neighbors and memories. A story of ideals and journeys: from Rokitno to the Valley of Jezreel, from Orthodox Judaism to socialism, from California to Palestine, from the Ukraine to LA. All written by the heroine’s loving, grateful, amazed grandson.

BEGINNINGS: REFLECTIONS ON THE BIBLE’S INTRIGUING FIRSTS (Nonfiction, 2011)
The first kiss in the Bible is not a kiss of love. The first love in the Bible is not the love of a man and a woman. The first hatred in the Bible is the hatred of a man toward his wife. The first laugh in the Bible is also the last. In Beginnings, Meir Shalev reintroduces us to the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament, exploring these and many more of the Bible’s unexpected “firsts.” Combining penetrating wit, deep empathy, and impressive knowledge of the Bible, he probes each episode to uncover nuances and implications that are often overlooked; and his nontraditional, nonreligious interpretations of the famous stories of the Bible take them beyond platitudes and assumptions to the love, fear, tragedy, and inspiration at their heart. Literary, inquisitive, and honest, Shalev makes these stories come alive in all their complicated beauty; and though these stories are ancient, their resonance remains intensely contemporary.

A PIGEON AND A BOY (Novel, 2007)
Tour guide Yair Mendelson tells about his surprising conception and birth; about his mother, who gave him a sum of money allowing him to build a new home and leave his wife; and about the woman contractor who renovates his house and becomes his lover. Concurrently, he unravels a wondrous story of love that evolves between two handlers of homing pigeons that blossoms in the early 40s and lasts until Israel’s War of Independence, from the pigeon that carries the first love letter between the two fourteen year olds to the pigeon that alights from the midst of the battle of Jerusalem, carrying the final letter, with it’s most unusual content that is unparalleled in the history of homing pigeons and in the annals of literature. A Pigeon And A Boy, Shalev’s sixth novel, is a captivating and moving story of a boy and his home, a nest and a girl, a pigeon and a baby. A tale of wandering passion and the return home-whether by humans or winged creatures. 


BEGINNINGS (nonfiction excerpt)

These firsts are often surprising. The first death in the Bible, for example, is not of natural causes. The first crying is not of a newborn baby or of a bereaved parent or an unrequited lover. The first dream in the Bible is not dreamt by an important figure in the history of the Jews, but rather by an utterly marginal king of the Philistines. The first kiss is not a lover’s kiss but a father’s test of his son, spurred by suspicion. And the first appearance in the BIble of the Hebrew words for “love” is not about the love of a man for a woman, or a woman for a man, or a mother for her son. The first love was a father’s love.

-from Introduction

A PIGEON AND A BOY (novel excerpt)

“What about the pigeons?” I asked.
He removed his hand. Grief and relief mingled one with the other. “The little dovecote he carried on his back had been shattered to pieces, and there were two dead pigeons on the floor. The third one was gone; that was apparently the one I told you about when we were there today.” To my great distress, he began to hum the tune to a song I had heard my mother sing many times: To silence the cannon yields / In abandoned killing fields. He said, “And it was a beautiful, special kind of a day; only later we realized it was the First of May, and there was this bird rising up above all that hell, that valley of death. She’d been lucky the dovecote got smashed-that’s how she managed to escape.”
“She didn’t escape,” I told him. “He dispatched her. He did manage to do something before he died.”

THE BLUE MOUNTAIN (novel excerpt)

On summer nights Grandfather liked to sit at the kitchen table in his faded undershirt and blue shorts, filling the room with smoke and good, woody, milky smells while swinging viney legs that were gnarled from work, and reliving old memories and iniquities. He had a habit of jotting down his thoughts on scraps of paper, which later flew about the room like swarms of migrating butterflies. He kept awaiting the return of whomever he had lost. ‘To see them again become flesh before my eyes.’ I once found written on a note that fluttered into my hand.
Many times, from the day I was old enough to wonder about it until the say he dies, I asked him, ‘What are you thinking about, Grandfather?’ His answer was always the same. ‘About you and me, my child.’

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