Israeli writers’ trophy leads to ‘emptiness of the day after’

Gavron jokes that now the side can envision its own writers’ team library—stocked with books from exchanges with other footballing men of letters. The library might adjoin a trophy room that glitters like Real Madrid’s. In reality, though, the cup likely will end up with the team’s sponsor, a popular Israeli café chain.

Titelkampf, the collection from Germany's national team of writers Earlier in 2008, the German writers’ team produced Titelkampf: Fußballgeschichten der deutschen Autorennationalmannschaft (Title Bout: Football Stories from the German National Writers’ Team).

The most immediate benefits from entry into this loose amalgam of writers’ teams, previously confined to Europe, are gaining a rallying point for young Israeli writers and offering a new means for exposure to literature. The Writers’ League concept started in Italy with Osvaldo Soriano Football Club, named for the late Argentine writer. (One of Soriano’s football stories, “The Longest Penalty Ever,” became a feature film in 2005, El penalti más largo del mundo.)

Italy organized a World Cup of Writers in 2006, also contested by England, the Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden. Murmurings among some “pissed-off” members of this fraternity are that Sweden has bolstered its club with pedigreed players of dubious literary credentials. “Even their poets looked robust,” English writer Craig Taylor said of Swedes at the 2006 event (“Literary Kicks,” CBC, 3 Oct 06). Other members in the collective include Spain, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland and Norway.

Gavron and other organizers might have been tempted but limited team selection to writers with poetry collections, novels (graphic and text-based) or nonfiction works to their names. For those living with fingertips glued to a QWERTY keyboard, or Hebrew equivalent, football offers a chance to learn how to become part of a group. “You know writers are usually on their own behind the computer screen, not much social life,” Gavron says, “so it was a great opportunity to find some kind of social life and to get together with people who are like you.”

The theme for the literary event at Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theatre on Dec 16, appropriate for a tournament celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary as a modern state and featuring England and Germany, was perception of the other. Israeli football commentator Avi Meller guided the discussion.

According to Gavron, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been pushing such sporting exchanges, which have formed part of Israel and Germany’s “special relationship” since the 1960s. The football associations of Israel and Germany have helped sponsor the writers’ events.

Der Spiegel on the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2005 characterized periodic nitpicking and bickering as “more like Homer and Marge than two sovereign states” (Henryk M. Broder, “Normality in the Shadow of History,” 24 Mar 05). But for every diplomatically mandated visit to the Yad Vashem memorial signs of normality in the relationship abound: Volkswagen and Mercedes automobiles in the Holy Land along with German tourists on beach promenades in Tel Aviv. Germany, after the United States, is Israel’s most important trade partner.

Gavron said that writers beneath a blue Tel Aviv sky this week took another small step to healing stereotypes and stigmas affecting the three nations. They could all consider themselves people of the book.

Page 2 of 4 | Previous page | Next page