Savyon Speaks!

Playwright, novelist, short story author Savyon Liebrecht in the first of her post-performance talk-backs on the set of Apples From The Desert.

Apples from the Desert Talk-Back with Israeli Playwright Savyon Liebrecht

from Theater J on Vimeo.

About the Author

Savyon Liebrecht was born in Munich, Germany in 1948 to Polish Holocaust survivor parents. The family moved to Israel the next year. For her military service Liebrecht served on a kibbutz, then went to London to study journalism. Dissatisfied with British schooling, Liebrecht returned to Israel and obtained a BA in philosophy and English literature.

Liebrecht began writing at eighteen but by her mid-twenties had taken a break, channeling her creative energies by studying visual art instead. At thirty-five, she joined a creative writing workshop where Israeli author Amalia Kahana-Carmon
recognized her unique talent and submitted Liebrecht’s story “Apples from the Desert” to a literary magazine. In the years since, she has published many collections of short stories, novellas, novels, plays, and television scripts and is one of the most highly regarded writers of contemporary Hebrew literature.

Liebrect’s work frequently deals with relevant social issues in Israel. Lily Rattok writes in her introduction to the English-language publication of “Apples from the Desert,” “Liebrecht’s eloquent and fluent linguistic style has captured the unique qualities of various social and ethnic groups, and her stories reflect the diversity of the reality evolving in present-day Israel…Nearly all of her stories demonstrate a special compassion for characters who are oppressed or disempowered in society—members of the Arab minority, Sephardic Jews ([often considered]the weaker ethnic group among Israeli Jews), women, children, and aging Holocaust survivors.” Rattok goes on to write about the “silent home” in which Liebrecht describes growing up—a silence stemming from her parents’ inability to talk about their experiences during the Holocaust.

Liebrecht rejects the notion that her work should be categorized as “women’s literature” stating, “the hand that writes is genderless.” Still, Liebrecht often criticizes patriarchal society—sometimes overtly, other times more subversively—for having victimized women and denying them positions of power. Rakoff goes on to write, “Liebrecht’s stories reflect her deep yearning for reconciliation between people placed on opposing sides of conflicts…This yearning for reconciliation can be traced to several elements: her exposure to the trauma of the Holocaust, her awareness of the continuous conflict in the Middle East, and—for me, of paramount importance—the fact that she is a woman, therefore acutely sensitive to situations of distress, weakness, and vulnerability.”

Excerpts from an interview with Playwright Savyon Liebrecht
By Shirley Serotsky

Shirley Serotsky: ‘Apples From The Desert’ was your first published story. What inspired you to adapt that story for the stage?

Savyon Liebrecht: When I decided to adapt a story to the stage, the first one that came forth was “Apples from the Desert”…because the image of the main character Victoria, was so vivid in my imagination and I could clearly hear her voice. It was not a rational decision. On the contrary, there were arguments against it mostly because I have little knowledge of this way of life. But Victoria was so warm and inviting…

SS: How is the time period (the play is set around 1980) integral to the story?

SL: The story was published in 1986 [and} written some two-three years before that. I decided not to change the time when the play was written 20 years later…because in these circles not much has changed since then and because I wanted to keep “the age of innocence” with no cell phones; when transportation to distant places was uncomfortable.

SS: Do you think that an American audience will receive this story in a way that is different from an Israeli audience?

SL: I believe that most American Jews are well acquainted with the Israeli reality…Still there are nuances that an Israeli will recognize better, especially when it comes to the language—which in Hebrew is a very unique one.