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Hagai Dagan


Born in 1964 in Kibbutz Ein HaMifratz, Hagai Dagan is an Israeli writer and scholar. Educated in Israel and Germany, he received a PhD in Jewish Thought and Philosophy from Tel-Aviv University. He is currently head of the Israeli Culture department at Sapir College, Israel.


Dagan has published seven novels, four non-fiction books, and a volume of poetry. His body of work is anchored by themes from Jewish history, myth, fantasy and demonology, and their links to contemporary Israeli life and identity. Dagan was awarded the Levi Eshkol Literary Award in 2007 and the Geffen Prize for Best Fantasy Book in 2013

Title: Call of the North: Karelia's Journey


Publisher: Petel Publishers

Year: 2023


Translation rights: World

Audio visual rights: World

Karelia, a Husky living in a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, doesn’t have an easy life: it’s too warm, she is chained in a small yard, and her owner is mean to her. She dreams about a faraway northern homeland, a mythical place of which she heard as a puppy, before she was separated from her mother. She also has helpful confidants: a dog with a Jewish soul and a quixotic child who goes by the name of Wilfred Ivanhoe. With their help she escapes her captivity and embarks on an adventurous journey to the Norse country of her dreams. 


Along her adventures, Karelia keeps running into trouble, but she also finds true friends—a Finnish girl who lives “under the map,” an orphaned Syrian refugee, smugglers from Hungary, and various animals and magical creatures: donkeys, geese and wolves, and even northern goddesses and bears who float in the sky. We might say that throughout the story, our seemingly familiar world is transformed into a fantastical world, but Karelia, on her quest north, would say that it has been there all along.  


What kind of book is this? Human or canine? A children’s book, or a crossover? The answer is both, and more. This adventure book leaves no other choice—whoever reads it must join Karelia and run with her all the way beyond the horizon, to the map under all maps.

Author's Introduction following October 7th:

When I wrote Call of the North my main thoughts were about a husky dog living in a Kibbutz nearby the Gaza Strip, about her life there, and her yearning for her faraway northern homeland. I never thought I was writing a requiem, or a tribute to the Kibbutzim on the Gaza border. I was writing about a Kibbutz that is probably too warm for a husky, but where life was overall normal and even pleasant. A place for families with young dreamers like Dotan, for dogs, cats, and even parrots who pass the time doing aerial gymnastics in the trees. Once in a while the Kibbutz is threatened by Qassam rockets, but they rarely hit their targets. I myself have spent a large portion of my life in such an environment: My partner lives in Kibbutz Be’eri (which inspired Kibbutz Megadim in the book), and I teach at Sapir College just outside Sderot. 

The blows that struck us on October 7th give the story an entirely different meaning. Kibbutz Be’eri was crushed and decimated. Over a hundred residents were murdered. Women, children, young and old. Many were injured, many kidnapped into Gaza. My partner’s home was burned down. We don’t know what happened to her cat. Inside this horror, I now think about Karelia’s story as a kind of tribute to the Kibbutz. Nothing in this tribute is embellished. Life in the Kibbutz wasn’t a paradise. But it was a life. Now there is no life there. 

Karelia, the husky who sets out from the Kibbutz on an adventure quest, encounters in Europe Syrian refugees and their suffering. In a sense, she is also a refugee. When I was writing I thought all of us were refugees, in some manner, but it didn’t cross my mind that members of the Kibbutzim in the western Negev would become refugees in the term’s simplest, cruelest sense. 

Karelia is a northern dog, but she is also a southern dog. Her soul yearns for the far north, but once she is on the journey, she remembers with longing her friends in the southern Kibbutz, the people and the dogs she left there. Now, after everything that has happened, the entire book is a memory, a yearning for something that may never return. 


Critical Praise

This human dogginess is delightful, and the attempt to inhabit the soul of a dog and see reality through its eyes, to understand its “worldview,” its perspective on the human beings around it, as it turns out, is inspiring. Dagan’s love of dogs is evident in every line of the book . . . There is something very original about this book, different from anything I have known so far.

Ofra Offer Oren, Author 

“At times, Dagan successfully weaves a gripping adventure story and provides fantastical escapism—while also evoking our unsettling here and now.” 

This comprehensive review in Israel's leading newspaper positions Hagai Dagan's YA novel among the classics of world literature. Karelia, the husky who embarks on a quest from a kibbutz on the Gaza border to her mythical Norse homeland, is a "blue-and-white White Fang" and her story draws on Tolstoy's "Kholstomer", Virginia Woolf's Flush, and even Edgar Allen Poe's ominous raven.

Leo Gurevich, Haaretz


Hagai Dagan: Fiction

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