Her works, originally in Hebrew, have been translated into English. After serving in the IDF Navy and losing both her parents by 19, she came to India to relax and get some rest. It was here that she wrote her books. Shavit is currently the editor of the literature channel of an Israeli news and culture website called Ynet. She spoke to Kim Arora on the sidelines of the Delhi chapter of the Kovalam Literature Festival, where she participated.
A lot of Israeli youngsters come to India to unwind after the military draft. You wrote your book in India. What makes India so popular among the young Israelis?
Israeli youngsters in their 20s want to run from the pressure. There is a difficult political situation in Israel, there are social and financial problems. It also has an amazing culture and is a great place to grow up and live in. But in this structure where you go to school and then join the army, things can be very hard. Especially for boys, because they actually fight out there. And we seek a new place to relax our minds. There is a lot of spirituality in India, there are different kinds of landscapes and there is a lot of freedom here. Yahaan sab kuch milega (You can get everything here) I think for tourists, when you are far away from your home, you can find different ways to look at your own personality. And even though there are similarities between India and Israel – we had the British together, similar Independence struggles and multi-cultural and multi-lingual societies. But mostly, it’s different. And I think this gap between Israel and India is a very interesting place for a writer to write and for a young person to travel.
Where did you travel in India?
I went all over — Bangalore, Kodaikanal, Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Delhi, Dharamshala and Manali, Leh and Spiti Valley. I discovered that every place would be very different from the one I visited before. I think this is the real magic of India. You can see a whole spectrum of emotions and people. Everywhere the people are different. They have different…(thinks) winds inside them. They have different ways of looking at life and happiness around them. You can learn a lot about different ways of living. I know that for an Indian person it may not feel that harmonic but for me somehow, it all fits together very well.
Where did you write your books?
I wrote India Express in Goa, because I like to write near a beach. I had a very simple room near the sea. Most of the day I would write and in the evenings I would go look at the sea and just relax. I needed to make time for this because from my time in Israel as a journalist I never had time for to write my novel. I really wanted to come to India and rest. I wrote it in part, but when I came here I finished my first draft.
I wrote both my books in India. One of them is called Bruria Productions and it was published in 2009. It includes three stories, of which one is set in India. It’s about this girl who has lost her mother and she is going through a hard time. She wants to go to India to search for a new way of living. And her ex-lover comes in and things get a little complicated. Even before I knew I was going to be a writer and was going to publish this story in a real book, I wrote it. It just came out of me. The second book, India Express, is all about India. It’s about two siblings. One of them disappears and the sister comes to India and hires a private detective to look for him. She needs to find herself a new identity, a new way of life. Even though the characters are from Israel, this story could take place only in India.
You mentioned in one interview that this book was supposed to be an assignment.
The assignment was from a professor at the Tel Aviv University. It was a course for young writers. One of our tutors, a famous Israeli author – Yuval Shimoni – he told us to write, for practice, about a meeting between two people in a new place that they are not familiar with. So I put my heroine with a private investigator in Delhi. They clash a lot on the book. But I think this idea of two characters is very different. They have to get along because they have a common goal.
Do you think Israeli literature is under-represented on the world stage?
No, I think it is very well represented. People like Dorit Rabinyan and David Grossman are very famous. I don’t know if in the East, if in your country, it’s the same. I think in Europe – in Germany and Italy – we are stronger. Maybe in India we are not so familiar. In Germany, in every bookshop, books by Israeli authors are on the windows. But here, maybe not. I hope the connection between Indian and Israeli writers improves. We know Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry, but we don’t know them all. So maybe there is a scope for a better cooperation.