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In his first book, young author tells vivid
stories about the Jewish state.
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Turning To Journalism
When Papernick returned to Jerusalem
in 1995, he was initially doing some
on Papernick takes the usual
information gathering for a novel, but
dictum about writing a step
shifted to journalism after Rabin was
further: "Write not about what killed. He reported on Israel for UPI,
you know, but what you're
covering the aftermath of the assassina-
tion as well as the Israeli and Palestinian
Israel is his obsession.
Papernick's debut book, The Ascent of
Looking back, he says that being a
Eli Israel: And Other Stories (Arcade;
daily journalist was "boot camp, great
$23.95), features seven short stories, all
experience for a writer." For Papernick,
set in Israel.
journalism was more difficult than fic-
The first, "Malchyk," takes place in
tion writing. "When you don't have a
Jerusalem in the weeks following Israel's
quote, you can't make it up.
declaration of statehood in 1948. The rest
"I see the world in a fictional way,"
of the stories are con-
he says. "I see it
temporary — with ref-
in the retelling."
erences to Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin's
always seen the
assassination, bus bomb-
world this way,
ings and politics — and
and has wanted
peopled with Israelis,
to be a writer
since he was a
Once he's con-
fident he knows
merchants, settlers and
he can write
Now living in
about it. "If you
look and listen,
31, grew up in the sub- Jon Papernick: "I see the world
a lot to
urbs of Toronto. He has through a Jewish lens."
learn. In Israel, pol-
twice spent time. in
itics, history and
Israel, once for seven months in 1992,
religion are very much part of the pop-
and then for a year following the Rabin
ular discourse, as opposed to sports
assassination in November 1995.
and popular culture, in America."
On his first trip, he discovered Israel
Papernick's stories reveal the Israel he
on his own — working on an army
absorbed and he invokes Jewish tradi-
base, milking cows at a kibbutz near the tion and culture in a very naturalistic
Megiddo Junction, studying at Aish
way. His writing is energetic and intense;
HaTorah, traveling around the country
he packs his sentences with the imagery
and studying Hebrew.
of the Middle East, and fills his pages
"Being in Israel changed my life
with action and emotional complexity,
entirely," he said. "I became very proud
sometimes humor. These stories have a
of being Jewish." Although he had
lot of violence, often unexpected.
grown up culturally Jewish ("the Jewish
"I opened my eyes and I looked. I was
that you can't get rid of, the Jewish that
woken up by suicide bombings. I saw
you are and don't have to do any-
dead people for the first time," he says,
thing"), his family didn't have a religious when asked about the multitude of vio-
practice,_ nor were they Zionists.
lent incidents. "[That was] what I saw,
He explains that he never felt part of
what was true.
the Canadian narrative of playing hock-
Although Papernick began writing a
ey and drinking beer and felt he didn't
novel, he turned his attention to stories.
"To say what I wanted to say about
In Israel, he "realized immediately that Israel, I had to say it from different
I had found a home and a connection to angles." With stories, the voice and tone
things I had been missing. I regret not
can vary. "I realized that no one would
having grown up more connected."
want to spend 250 pages with Eli," he