A WELL-KNOWN POET, prose writer, musician, TV writer and university educator, Shimon Adaf was born in 1972 of Moroccan parentage in the town of Sderot, near the Gaza Strip. He attended a religious school as a child, and later segued to an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic middle school, which he left after six months. Adaf completed his studies at secular schools.
Adaf began to publish poetry during his military service. Moving to Tel Aviv in 1994, he published his first poetry collection, Monolog shel Icarus (Icarus’ Monologue), which won an Education Ministry award. This and other poetry achieved widespread translation, earning Adaf a reputation as a literary wunderkind. From 2000 to 2004, he worked at the Keter Publishing House, the youngest editor of an original Israeli prose line, discovering such genre stalwarts as Ophir Touché Gafla and Nir Bar’am. In 2004 he wrote a murder mystery, Kilometer veYomayim lifnei haShki’ah (One Kilometer and Two Days Before Sunset), and a young adult fantasy, HaLev haKavur (The Buried Heart), the latter steeped in Jewish mythology. In 2008 he published the fantasy novel Panim Tzruvei Hama (Sunburnt Faces, translated 2013), Adaf’s biggest hit until his most recent one, Aviva-Lo (Aviva-No, translation forthcoming), about the unexpected death of his beloved sister. In 2006 he launched his Vered Yehudah (Rose of Judea) sequence, including the Delanyesque epic, Kfor (Frost), in 2010. Adaf followed this in 2011 with Mox Nox (Latin for Soon the Night), an alternate history Turn of the Screw-inspired tale, winning the prestigious Sapir Prize. This was followed by ‘Arim shel Mata (Earthly Cities), in 2012. His prose and poetry were translated into English, Arabic, French, Italian and Spanish.
Adaf’s literature and literary persona pose several problems to modern Hebrew literary gatekeepers. He is a polymath, and there is no gainsaying his place as one of the most erudite Israeli writers today. But his preoccupation with Talmudism, the powerful mythologies he derived from his Sephardic background, his shifting from Israel’s geographical periphery to its center and back again, from the biographical to the universalist, from the distant past to the present to far future, as well as his difficult, often esoteric language, renders his output problematic in a country obsessed with borders, or contrarily, the lack thereof.