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Born in Jerusalem in 1955, Agur Schiff is an author, filmmaker and professor emeritus at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He has published two short story collections and six novels. He has been awarded the Israeli Prime Minister’s Prize for Hebrew Literary Works; his novel The Latecomers (2013) was shortlisted for the Israel’s prestigious Sapir Prize for Literature. Schiff lives in Tel Aviv.
Title: Professor Schiff’s Guilt
Publisher: Achuzat Bayit
Translation rights: World excluding English
Translation: English translation by Jessica Cohen, Man Booker International Prize winner.
Rights sold: World English (New Vessel Press, NY)
An Israeli professor travels to a fictitious West African nation to trace a slave-trading ancestor, only to be imprisoned under a new law barring successive generations from profiting off the proceeds of slavery. But before departing from Tel Aviv, the protagonist falls in love with Lucile, a mysterious African migrant worker who cleans his house. Entertaining and thought-provoking, this satire of contemporary attitudes toward racism and the legacy of colonialism examines economic inequality and the global refugee crisis, as well as the memory of transatlantic chattel slavery and the Holocaust. Is the professor’s passion for Africa merely a fashionable pose and the book he’s secretly writing about his experience there nothing but a modern version of the slave trade?
Schiff hones important questions about postcolonial responsibility with razor-sharp intensity.
Library Journal, Best World Literature of 2023 List
A writer contends with slavery's legacy, and his own link to it . . . Daring in both scope and imagination.
The New York Times
Professor Schiff's Guilt skewers the exoticizing western gaze that homogenizes the Global South . . . Quite entertaining . . . This snidely funny novel suggests that even the most well-meaning, educated people are prone to showing their inner colonizer.
Jewish Book Council
In prize-winning Israeli novelist/filmmaker Schiff’s insightful commentary on postcolonial responsibility . . . the professor is met firmly by his accusers, who finally point out that "when a white European author writes about Africa, he is unwittingly reenacting an exploitative act." This might damn the author himself, but he is to be praised for taking the risk as he hones important questions with razor-sharp intensity.
Aspects of subjugation . . . repeat themselves across generations in uncanny yet pointed ways. Mr. Schiff is often too clever for his own good . . . this shrewd masquerade has real bite.
Wall Street Journal
This provocative novel raises urgent questions about family legacy, human trafficking, atonement and memory. Full of unexpected twists and humor.
Sandee Brawarsky, Hadassah Magazine
A daring post-colonial satire about a professor who inadvertently gets wrapped up in human trafficking in modern-day Tel Aviv... The author takes a clear-eyed view of the horrors of slavery and its present-day consequences... It’s a blistering skewering, and as sharp as it is funny.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
In this very funny, wise, and rueful novel, the cranky hero thrashes around in the coils of guilt, atonement, desire, and shame once he learns that a distant relative was a slave trader. (There’s other bad stuff, not nearly so distant.) But really, he’s no more culpable than we all are—and no less.
James Traub, author of Judah Benjamin: Counselor to the Confederacy and Foreign Policy magazine columnist
Not only a hilarious satirical novel full of self-deprecation, but also a topical and very relevant book, which cleverly ridicules the self-righteous and should finally place its author alongside the most prominent writers.
One of the most thrilling and thought-provoking novels I’ve read in the past year… Schiff writes with simplicity, full of charm and humor.
A wonderful and brilliant book… a very entertaining book, rich with imagination and literary innovations.
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