From “a marvelous new voice” (Rebecca Makkai), these “extraordinarily imaginative” (Sigrid Nunez), “revelatory” (Nicole Krauss), “superb” (Kiran Desai) stories transcend borders as they render the intimate lives of people striving for connection.
WINNER OF THE AJL JEWISH FICTION AWARD • FINALIST FOR THE WINGATE PRIZE
The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land announces the arrival of a natural-born storyteller of immense talent. Warm, poignant, delightfully whimsical, Omer Friedlander’s gorgeously immersive and imaginative stories take you to the narrow limestone alleyways of Jerusalem, the desolate beauty of the Negev Desert, and the sprawling orange groves of Jaffa, with characters that spring to vivid life. A divorced con artist and his daughter sell empty bottles of “holy air” to credulous tourists; a Lebanese Scheherazade enchants three young soldiers in a bombed-out Beirut radio station; a boy daringly “rooftops” at night, climbing steel cranes in scuffed sneakers even as he reimagines the bravery of a Polish-Jewish dancer during the Holocaust; an Israeli volunteer at a West Bank checkpoint mourns the death of her son, a soldier killed in Gaza.
These stories render the intimate lives of people striving for connection. They are fairy tales turned on their head by the stakes of real life, where moments of fragile intimacy mix with comedy and notes of the absurd. Told in prose of astonishing vividness that also demonstrates remarkable control and restraint, they have a universal appeal to the heart.
About the Author
Omer Friedlander was born in Jerusalem in 1994 and grew up in Tel Aviv. He earned a BA in English literature from the University of Cambridge, England, and an MFA from Boston University, where he was supported by the Saul Bellow Fellowship. His short stories have won numerous awards and have been published in the United States, Canada, France, and Israel. A Starworks Fellow in Fiction at New York University, he has earned a Bread Loaf Work-Study Scholarship as well as a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. He currently lives in New York City.
“In these wise, capacious, achingly beautiful stories, Omer Friedlander maps the hidden geography of the human heart like a young Chekhov. Each one feels like a fresh new discovery, and collected together, The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land becomes a sustained feat of imaginative compassion.”—Anthony Marra, New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“Innovative in conception, classical in spirit, these stories, set largely in Israel, resonate with international ramifications. Rarely do we encounter a writer so young but also this wise. . . . A splendid literary debut.”—Ha Jin, National Book Award–winning author of Waiting
“Friedlander blends fable and realism in extraordinarily imaginative ways. Again and again, he achieves a fine balance between the tragic and the absurd. Every one of these stories moved me and taught me something I did not know before.”—Sigrid Nunez, National Book Award-winning author of The Friend
“As outrageously funny as they are outrageously tender, Friedlander’s stories conjure complex and often difficult emotions with perfect acrobatic skill. This terrible world, he seems to be telling us, is so terribly wonderful that it is perfectly all right to laugh and cry at the same time. A superb collection.”—Kiran Desai, Booker Prize–winning author of The Inheritance of Loss
“The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land is a beautifully written collection, and Omer Friedlander is an exceptionally thoughtful writer. He tells these stories with care and attention equal to the complexities of the people and places that fill their pages. I’m already looking forward to what he’ll do next.”—Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds and A Shout in the Ruins
“With Omer Friedlander as our guide, we are expertly transported over their topographies and even across their respective borders. He is a remarkable talent.”—Elliot Ackerman, author of Red Dress in Black and White
“In Omer Friedlander’s wonderful stories even the animals bear the weight of history—a one-eyed cat named Moshe Dayan, a turtle named Ghetto Lodz—but it’s the people who are most indelible: a man who sells air in Tel Aviv, a Polish Jewish prima ballerina who kills a Nazi officer with the tip of her heel. There’s a touch of magic in these stories reminiscent of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Nathan Englander. But the world Friedlander creates is all his own. Through his orange-grove workers, junk collectors, soldiers, and grieving mothers, he makes Israel and Palestine—the whole history of the Middle East—come alive. The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land is an astonishing, breathtaking debut.”—Joshua Henkin, author of Morningside Heights
“Friedlander’s voice mixes those two nearly unmixables: intelligence and whimsy. He is one of those rare authors who can trap each moment in a surprising and somehow perfect detail. A major work—I urge you to read it.”—Darin Strauss, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen of Tuesday
“Omer Friedlander is a marvelous new voice, bringing magic, chance, and surprise to his stories without ever losing sight of the human and the real. I’d follow this writer anywhere.”—Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer finalist for The Great Believers
“Friedlander debuts with a dynamic collection. . . . With sensitivity and compassion [he] imbues his characters with a deeply felt humanity, and his finely tuned command of emotional tenor will evoke tears and laughter in equal measure. . . . These superior character portraits make for an auspicious start.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)