THE BOOKS

Moshe Sakal’s books make me miss a life I never lived. In THE DIAMOND SETTER, he surpasses himself with the blue diamond’s wonderful journey across continents and nations. A rare book by a rare writer.

Sakal is one of Tel Aviv’s most promising writers. Behind the richly layered family story lies an extraordinarily subtle portrait of Israeli society.” 

Moshe Sakal’s writing is impressive in its range and reflects an ability to arrive at profound psychological insights..

—Ari Folman, Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee for Waltz with Bashir

Radio France Inter

From comments by the panel of judges, upon awarding the Eshkol Prize for a Hebrew work  

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THE DIAMOND SETTER
 
Hebrew: Keter, Israel, 2014
English: Other Press, USA, 2018, Translated by Jessica Cohen

Inspired by true events, this best-selling Israeli novel traces a complex web of love triangles and family secrets across generations and borders.

 

THE DIAMOND SETTER was named one of TimeOut New York’s “11 Books You Will Want to Binge-Read This Month,” and Entertainment Weekly has called it “[An] essential read…[one] of 2018’s biggest titles…a vital depiction of queer life in the Middle East.” 

"Beautifully written."— NBC

“Richly evocative.” —Booklist

“A kaleidoscopic journey into the Middle East of the present and the not-so-distant past…As the mystery of the diamond unfolds, characters’ paths cross in unexpected ways—reminding the reader that we are all, in some way or another, connected.” Kirkus Reviews 

"The book plunges backward into the characters' family histories—and to a time before the founding of the country—to reveal the ways that the past can still ensnarl us."—Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine

"Sakal’s novel reflects on the complex history of this fraught region, exploring themes of forbidden desire and the danger of border crossings. Centered on an eclectic cast of characters and interweaving several narrative strands, The Diamond Setter considers the power of memory in the ongoing search for one’s roots. "The Los Angeles Review of Books
“If you enjoy richly plotted intergenerational stories inspired by true events, Moshe Sakal’s The Diamond Setter offers bountiful pleasures…a gloriously immersive journey into different cultures.” —The Forward 

Read an interview in Gulf Coast

“…what’s best is the unselfconsciously sensuous writing (with a range of sexuality easily accepted) and the beautifully depicted sense of a time gone by when borders were open and Jew and Arab commingled.” —Library Journal 

"There are…sparkling, beautiful passages in this novel…The Diamond Setter is very relevant: Jaffa and Tel Aviv represent a modern city’s role in justice, the quest for equality, and continuing rationality in a very irrational area of the world.” —Huffington Post

“Sakal makes room for his narrative to encompass huge issues: the geopolitics of the Middle East, gentrification, sexuality, borders, aging, and the bonds of family. Yet this book never feels ponderous: Sakal keeps things moving briskly throughout…the charm of the novel’s characters and the humanism with which Sakal tells this story go a long way.” —Words Without Borders
“Well written, masterfully translated by Jessica Cohen, and rewards rereading.” 
—New York Journal of Books

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YOLANDA

Short-listed for the Sapir Prize

Hebrew: Keter, Israel, 2011

French: Stock, La Cosmopolite, 2012, Translated by Valérie Zenatti

Momo was born into an Israeli family of blended Sephardic origins, with a maternal grandmother, Yolanda, from a French-speaking family in Cairo. Yolanda’s stalwart personality leaves its mark on Momo’s childhood. From his frequent visits with his grandmother, Momo is able to describe her life in detail, as well as the lives of his great-aunts and his eccentric great-uncle, all exiled from their Cairene paradise.

As Momo learns about Yolanda’s life, some enigmatic questions arise. What caused her twenty years earlier to banish her husband Georges, Momo’s grandfather, whose very name she now refuses to utter? Who was Yaakov, the love of her life, who had fought in the Jewish underground and died at the hands of Arabs in Jaffa?

Focusing on the immigrant generation and that of the grandchildren in search of their roots, the author explores, through day-by-day rituals and the tension of languages and cultures remembered and forgotten, the complexity of Israeli contemporary life.

Praise for Yolanda

“Written like a sonata… An amusing and intimate novel.” Le Monde

“A superb family novel, remarkably moving and engaging.” Le Soir

“Sakal is one of Tel Aviv’s most promising writers. Behind the richly layered family story lies an extraordinarily subtle portrait of Israeli society.” Radio France Inter

"Yolanda is a fine work of portraits of loved ones. Moshe Sakal loves his characters even when he exposes them in their psychological and physical nakedness, and it is hard for us not to love them ourselves, despite all their violence, racism, miserliness and suspicion." Haaretz 

"Found in Translation" - Interview in Haaretz daily newspaper: "Francophone Moshe Sakal finds satisfaction in building bridges to world cultures in an era of separatism."

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MY SISTER 

Long-listed for the Sapir Prize

Zmora Bitan, Israel, 2016

Read an excerpt (English) in The Literary Review, 2018

Author Amos Oz:

“When I started reading the novel My Sister by Moshe Sakal, I could not stop. I found in it things that I liked and which spoke to me very much. Almost all the characters in this book are both divided souls and merging souls, each character becoming one with another. And that is sophisticated and fascinating.” 

Moshe Sakal’s best seller, My Sister, tells the story of Neta and her relationships with her two younger brothers. She is single and longs to adopt a child from Russia. The youngest brother, Tomer, a brilliant and mysterious young man, earns money as a sperm-donor in Israel and in the USA, to help his sister raise the funds for adopting his future niece. 

My Sister explores the different forms modern families can take, and looks at the ethical and practical questions related to sperm donation, and the ways in which new and different technologies impact today’s reproductive norms.

 

Prof. Yigal Schwartz, the book’s editor:

“The siblings’ stories are woven together by Sakal’s sensitive yet confident hand, alongside captivating anecdotes from the parents’ Egyptian backgrounds. The power of My Sister stems, in part, from its narrative style. Sakal makes love through his writing: he paints his fictional world in strikingly palpable language which readers can almost reach out and touch; he cradles us in words and leads us after him with enchanting melodies, like the Pied Piper.

Much like Yolanda (2011) and The Diamond Setter (2014), Sakal’s two previous novels, both of which gained popular and critical acclaim, My Sister reflects on immigrants and locals, members of different classes who live in separate neighborhoods, fertility, sexuality and gender, and issues of identity and place. The profound social commentary embodied in the narrative cannot obscure Sakal’s obvious love for his characters and the world they inhabit, and he manages to infect the readers with this love.”

 

Praise for My Sister 

 “…a delightful, smart, occasionally funny family novel. Its language is picturesque and supple, and its content full of love for all its characters… Thought-provoking, fascinating and refreshing…” Haaretz

“…examines the relationship between individual consciousness and family consciousness. This game, which guides the book mischievously and confidently to the peculiarities of knowing and unknowing, is the secret of this too-short novel.” Makor Rishon

“On the surface a family novel in the old familiar psychological realism mold, full of complications and resolutions, but a second or third reading is in many ways like glimpsing the inner workings of a pulsating, moving organism. On the surface it is wide open, but in fact it guards its mysteries.” Israel Hayom

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UNICORN 

Zmora Bitan, Israel, 2020

Read an excerpt in Haaretz daily newspaper (Hebrew)

A young writer sets off to uncover a dark secret from his past. The events and his experience stem from an enigmatic family mystery that the readers are also invited to decipher. What role is played by the narrator’s partners, and by his therapist and her lovers? And what of the voyage in the footsteps of prehistoric man and the ancient cave drawing of a unicorn in France?

“Sakal crafts an eccentric expanded family, unified by a substance that preserves the narrator’s soul and creates an exhilarating alchemy. The protagonist’s secret casts a heavy shadow on his life story, but at the same time it is a glimmering star in the sky for him, to whose light he is drawn. This is the unicorn, the artistic, corporeal-spiritual symbol of all that is pure and sublime.”

Yigal Schwartz, editor

From the Reviews:
“A story that dives head-first into the profound, entangled relationship between a son and his mother.”

- Kobi Medan, host of cultural affairs show on Israeli television

“A family mystery, an ancient mystery, a dark secret with an alluring blinding light—all these in one unicorn, a novel that you can’t put down.”

- Reuven Miran, author, translator and publisher

“Unicorn is a novel that moves between fantastical dimensions and the here-and-now, which reads with great pleasure and wonder. Run out to buy it.”

- Keren Agmon, Saloona internet magazine

“Sakal’s mastery of the language is evident throughout the novel...crafting a stylistically elegant, unique and elastic kind of prose. The novel is a kaleidoscope of sorts, in which small, seemingly insignificant thematic shards or threads constantly appear and disappear...”

- Nadav Linial, University of Michigan

“Sakal challenges the rigid boundaries and the adherence to the holy setting of traditional
therapy.”

- Neta Amit, Hebrew Psychology website