Writer talks of Isreali society

The Daily Pennsylvanian
November 11, 1998

Described by Professor of Hebrew Literature Hanita Brand as one of Israel's "most celebrated women writers," Savyon Liebrecht shared insights about writing and read from her work last night at the Kelly Wiiters House. Liebrecht addressed a group of more than 30 students and community members in a lecture co-sponsored by the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Women's Studies departments. Sharing her perspective as a short story writer, novelist and screenwriter, Liebrecht discussed the process of writing and read.excerpts from her own work, which explore many aspects of ethnic and gender tension in Israeli society. In "The Room on the Roof," for example, Liebrecht uses the story of an Israeli woman's interactions with Palestinian laborers to explore these tensions, and to demonstrate the value of interpersonal relationships in overcoming stereotypes.

Born in 1948, Liebrecht is the daughter of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel when she was one-year-old. As a result of her unique perspective as an Israeli woman who has grown up alongside the nation - the modern State of Israel was created in 1948 - Liebrecht brings a dynamic vision to her art, according to Brand. Liebrecht discussed the process of creating her stories, noting that when a character enters her imagination, "we start getting to be friends, I get to know her... when I enter her dreams, I sit down and start writing." While writing, she emphasized, "I let the character decide... the story exists, I sort of report about it, I don't create it." Liebrecht's stories contain themes that get to the heart of modern Israeli life. She writes with particular concern about women, Arab-Israeli relations, religious conflicts and the Holocaust. In response to an audience question, she elaborated on her self-described obsession with the Holocaust, saying, "I keep being puzzled by it, and as long as it is puzzling I will keep on writing." Liebrecht's words clearly resonated with her audience, who lined up after the talk to have her autograph copies of her book Apples in the Desert. First-year Comparative Literature graduate student Johanna Baum was enthusiastic. "She is one of the authors I have enjoyed the most," said Baum. "It is incredible to be able to hear an author talk about the process of writing... to lift the veil." College freshman Ellie Lobovits, who attended the lecture because of its focus on women's issues, commented that Liebrecht's assertion that reality is stranger than imagination was, "a really interesting topic," in the discussion. "There's a tension in her stories that is palpable... a tension between characters that tugs at your heart," said Ellen Frankel, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publishing Society in Philadelphia.