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Gütersloh, 04/24/2018

Assaf Gavron's new novel “Eighteen Lashes,” published in German by


the Verlagsgruppe Random House imprint Luchterhand at the end of
February, has it all. For today’s installment of its “Book Talk” series,
BENET met with the Israeli author in Gütersloh to talk to him about his
most recent work. Assaf Gavron also personally introduces himself in the
accompanying video.

From a forbidden love


between two British
soldiers and two
Jewish girls during the
British mandate in
Israel, to mysterious
deaths in present-day
Tel Aviv: Assaf
Gavron's new novel
“Eighteen Lashes,”
published in German
by the Verlagsgruppe
Random House imprint
Luchterhand at the end
of February, has it all.
For today’s installment Assaf Gavron introduces himself in a short video
of its “Book Talk”

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series, BENET met with the Israeli author in Gütersloh to talk to him about his most recent work. Assaf
Gavron also personally introduces himself in the accompanying video.

BENET: Mr. Gavron, your protagonist Eitan Einoch - “Croc” to his friends – last played a role in your book
“CrocAttack,” published about ten years ago. How come he reappears in “Eighteen Lashes”?

Assaf Gavron: I had the idea for the book before I knew that Eitan would play a role in it. I wanted to write
about older people who remember their youth. “Eighteen Lashes” is set in our time, but the roots of the story
go back 60 years. Besides, it was clear from the beginning that it was going to be a kind of thriller. I like
reading crime novels myself, and I like the idea of an amateur detective. In “CrocAttack” most of the story
revolves around an investigation that Croc, as an amateur detective, carries out with a friend. And once I
knew that there would be investigations in the new book as well, I thought: Why not reactivate Eitan? At the
same time, I began to wonder what might have become of him, eleven years after his first story, in which he
suffered several serious traumas. At that time, he was thirty-three and a third years old; now he’s forty-four
and a quarter. I wondered, where is Eitan right now? He’s a character I like very much, so I wanted to check
in and see how he was doing.

BENET: Did you have a hard time finding him again?

Assaf Gavron: What I had also decided from the beginning was
that the protagonist in “Eighteen Lashes” should be a taxi driver by
profession – and Eitan had nothing to do with taxi driving, he used
to work in the high-tech industry. But when I started writing, I easily
found my way back to him. Everything came spontaneously. Eitan
is now a taxi driver, divorced, has a daughter, and his past from the
other book is still a part of him. It was as if I’d met an old friend
again, whom I hadn't seen for many years, but when we met again,
it’s as if we had only parted yesterday.

BENET: Why did you want the protagonist in “Eighteen Lashes” to


be a taxi driver, of all things?

Assaf Gavron: I’ve met a lot of taxi drivers in Tel Aviv. There are
some among them who are intellectuals and ended up driving taxis
for various reasons, even though they would be qualified for entirely
Assaf Gavron © S. Röhl different jobs – that also plays a role in this book. I also felt that taxi
rides are an interesting way to get around Tel Aviv in the novel, and
to get to know the city in this way – and above all, as a way to meet
people. I think taxi drivers have an incredibly fascinating job because they encounter so many different
people, and hear up to ten or twenty stories every day. Of course, not all taxi drivers are equally talkative, but
especially in Israel they tend to talk to passengers. They are part of other people's lives in a special way – I
like that.

BENET: How has Tel Aviv changed in the past ten years?

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Assaf Gavron: I'm not sure if Tel Aviv has changed as much as much as
Eitan has since “CrocAttack,” but I think that his new roles – as a
divorcee, as a father, as a taxi driver – give Eitan a different perspective
on the city. In the first book, of course, the Intifada plays an important role;
Tel Aviv is threatened by bombs and there’s an atmosphere of paranoia;
that’s no longer the case today. But the essence of the city hasn’t
changed. Tel Aviv remains Tel Aviv – an exciting, interesting city with lots
of young people, a modern nightlife, a big high-tech industry, but also with
its beach and its tourists.

BENET: Your novel “Eighteen Lashes” repeatedly harks back to the


1940s. Why are you interested in this period in particular?

Assaf Gavron: I find this time full of emotion, passion and drama very
fascinating. The roots of the story in “Eighteen Lashes” lie in the year in
which the State of Israel was to be founded, in which the situation became
increasingly heated during the British mandate. There was a great deal of
violence. The Jews rebelled against the British because they increasingly
saw them as occupiers. The Arabs did the same, and although the Jews
and the Arabs were hostile to each other, it was the British who became the target of their common violence. I
find it very interesting that after the Second World War the British were actually in the position of victors – the
heroes who had liberated Europe and the world – but were then suddenly perceived as enemies and attacked
and humiliated by the Arabs and Jews. I like this dramatic aspect.

But this conflict also affects me personally. My parents come from England. Many family members still live
there, and I’ve lived in Britain myself. My main identity is Israeli, but a large part of my identity is also British.
Until now, I haven’t broached the issue of these two sides of my identity in my books and now I had the
feeling that it was the right time. And the British mandate is the most obvious period in history in which these
two worlds collide.

BENET: What do the “Eighteen Lashes” from the title of your novel mean?

Assaf Gavron: They describe a true incident that occurred during the British mandate. It's not one of the
well-known stories - until I started my research for the book, I didn't know anything about it either. That’s
because at the time, the British usually punished violent criminals – who carried out attacks and killed people
– by hanging. However, if the criminals were minors, they were not hanged, but instead given 18 lashes with
a whip. Menachem Begin, who led the Etzel underground group and later became Prime Minister of Israel,
hated this form of punishment. He could accept hanging or soldiers and fighters being killed in the line of duty,
but he couldn’t get over the floggings. His reaction to this punishment was that he had British soldiers

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captured and punished in the same way.

This is a story of revenge, of humiliation. In the context of war and resistance fighters, it even seems kind of
strange. You don't expect it to take such a turn. And the fact that this feeling of humiliation remains, both for
the person who experienced it on their own bodies and for a whole nation for many years or even a whole
lifetime, resembles the feeling of love. I wanted to investigate these two feelings of love and humiliation that
can last a lifetime from youth to old age. Both remain lodged deep in people's hearts, and in the novel, the
two are interwoven.

BENET: Is that why love plays such a central role in the book?

Assaf Gavron: The story tells of the forbidden love between British soldiers and Jewish girls – there were of
course relationships of this kind. After the book was published, I received many messages from people who
told me that their aunts or other relatives had had such a love affair. A forbidden love often fails because of
the circumstances. It’s difficult to go public with it. I wanted to find out what goes on deep inside the heart
when someone falls in love at an early age and gets their heart broken. What happens then? How long can
love last? Can love last a lifetime? In the book, I play with the idea that it can do precisely that.

BENET: How is your working relationship with Luchterhand Literaturverlag?

Assaf Gavron: Luchterhand and I are really very loyal


to each other. They have published five of my books in
Germany. In no other country where my books appear
have I published so many titles with the same publisher.
It feels like my books really do have a home here. I’ve
been working with Luchterhand for exactly ten years
now – and by the way, the team now still consists of the
same people as it did back then. Another thing that’s not
the case at any of my other publishers.

I’m generally very impressed with the publishing industry


and reading culture in Germany. There’s a great interest
in books, readings, bookstores, reading festivals and Assaf Gavron signs three copies of his novel “Eighteen Lashes”
book fairs. I’m very happy with Luchterhand, because
for me the publisher combines the best of everything.
It’s a small publishing

house, but part of a strong publishing family. We’ve developed a very personal relationship over recent years.
And it somehow feels fitting to have Eitan from our first book together reappear in the tenth year of our
relationship.

BENET: Are we going to meet Eitan again in one of your future novels?

Assaf Gavron: Why not? In the first book, as I said, he was 33 years old. Now he’s 44 – so maybe when
he’s 55. Who knows what'll happen to him by then. I'm sure it’ll be exciting to find out. (se)

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