Home Libraries / Shulamit Aloni

The former Meretz leader on her lending policy: "I lend, and in the book I write, 'Please return.'"

Kfar Shmaryahu

  • Oldest book in the library: "An antique and yellowing prayer book that has come down through the family, on my father's side. It isn't clear when it was printed. Inside, you can find attempts to calculate the book's age, with no success."

  • Books that have been added to the library recently: A.B. Yehoshua's "Friendly Fire," Victoria Hislop's "The Island," "The Big Bang" and two copies (one is meant to be a gift) of "Ancient Egypt."

  • What's the first book you acquired?: "When I was 15, I used the pocket money I received to buy the biography of Rosa Luxemburg, which had then come out from Sifriat Hapoalim. Since then she has been the woman I most admire. As a girl I never fell in love with actors, but I had two heroines: Rosa Luxemburg and Madame Curie."

  • What's your favorite book in the library?: "I am polygamous. Even though in my youth I preferred Russian and French literature, I love Hebrew literature very much: Amos Oz is an artist with the tongue of genius, Yoram Kaniuk offers wild fantasy and in the unique writing of Yehoshua Kenaz, especially in 'Infiltration' and in 'The Way to the Cats,' there is a characteristic that isn't typical of the Jewish people: compassion. In my opinion, this is the secret of his writing."

  • Which book in the library do you return to most often?: "I go back to read or read in part Albert Camus: to the prose - 'The Stranger,' 'The Plague' - and to his philosophy - 'Four Letters to a German Friend'. I also go back to Dostoevsky, to 'The Brothers Karamazov' and 'Demons.' In philosophy I go back to all of Socrates' writings, because I use it for teaching. Not that the students read him, but I present him to them to arouse associations. In poetry: Rilke, Brecht, Darwish, Auden."

  • What book have you not managed to finish?: "Richard Overy's 'The Dictators,' because it's so thick, and Colleen McCullough's 'First Man in Rome,' because it is so heavy. I love to read while lying down, and it's heavy. When we were children they published the thick books for us in three or four slim volumes. Recently they wanted to give me the biography of Mao as a gift. This is an expensive and important book, but because of how much it weighs I said, 'Oh, no, take pity on me, take pity on me.' But I know that in the end I will read it."

  • What is your favorite binding?: "Everything, only not thick bindings. Only not a hard binding. I beg of the publishers: Split books in two; it isn't fair."

  • What book in the library most moves you?: "A first edition of the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, with gorgeous illustrations. When I was young, we all fell in love with 'The Raven,' especially in Jabotinsky's [Hebrew] translation, which was excellent. This edition is a treasure for me and it excites me to this day."

  • What book do you want but have been unable to obtain?: "I usually manage to obtain what I want. Yesterday, Steimatzky's informed me that they managed to get a copy of Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' for me."

  • Who's the author who most influenced you?: "In my library there is a special edition of the works of S. Yizhar, which consists of seven volumes that were published by Zmora-Bitan in 1996. Yizhar influenced me in his writing and in his personality. He was my literature teacher from eighth grade to 10th grade at the Ben Shemen Youth Village. When Yizhar went back to his writing after a break of many years, and I read his new books, I was able to hear in the rhythm and the tone that he had returned to the voice of his youth. I am still thrilled by the colors in his descriptions of landscapes and by the rich language of his writing."

  • What book has helped you more than any other in the things that you do?: "Philosophy books and the Bible. I am a great disciple of myths that are handed down among peoples, because it is the earliest ethos that creates the society. This is the reason I love the Bible. God in the Bible doesn't bother me at all, I accept Him. If Moses himself had said to the Children of Israel, 'I am giving you these laws,' they would have killed him. But when God gives the laws, this is a supreme authority that can't be argued with. Just between us, isn't it easier to talk about God and what He created than about the big bang? At least it's more literary."

  • What is your most beloved paragraph from among the books in your library?: "When I'm in a bad mood, and I go out for a walk with the dog in the morning, and I see blue skies, I recite to myself 'The Pear Tree,' by Rachel, which makes me feel optimistic: 'A person wakes from his sleep / and right out his window he sees / a pear tree in bloom / and at once: his heart's hill of gloom/ crumbles and desists. / Understand: A person cannot insist / on mourning the single flower that withers / in cruel autumn's bluster / if the spring reconciles and presents, with a smile, / in his window, huge bouquets of blossoms outside.' "And when I'm feeling cynical, I hear in my mind the end of Sergei Yesenin's poem 'The Black Man': 'To an aging woman of 40 or more / he calls out / Hey little girl, my tiny flake!/ happiness has told that it's a pleasant thing / fruit of a swift mind and a desiring hand / never mind, if some time a lot of torture / causes fakery, trickery and lies.' "When I am optimistic again, I love to recall Brecht's poem 'Everything Changes,' from [Harshav's Hebrew collection] 'Exile of the Poets.'"

  • What dedication do you value most?: "A dedication of a semi-romantic hue written to me by a friend who died in the War of Independence. This is very precious to me, and I've kept it to this day."

  • Estimated number of books: 3,500

  • Predominant genres: Poetry, prose, art, philosophy, reference, history, law, Judaism

  • Languages: Hebrew, English

  • Method of organization: The library is the house. The house is the library. Throughout the house, on every bookshelf, cupboard, chest and shelf, one can find rows of books lined up. In one of the rooms, a thick copy of Paul Theroux's "Pillars of Hercules" serves as a doorstop.

  • Lending policy: "I lend, and in the book I write, 'Please return.'"