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Northwest Passages: Ehud Havazelet

Pete Springer/OPB

The next in our series of conversations with Northwest writers profiles Ehud Havazelet. An immigrant from Israel to America as a toddler, then from New York to the west as an adult, Havazelet drew on his experience as “the son of a rabbi, and the grandson of a really famous rabbi” in his most recent books, Like Never Before and Bearing the Body.

Both won the Oregon Book Award for fiction, in 1999 and 2008 respectively. Both dig deep into the silence of Holocaust survivors and the cost of that silence on families.

Luckily, my family was out of Europe mostly by then. But what I saw about survivors was that people worked very hard. They were driven. But no one ever talked about what had happened to them. Like soldiers coming back from Iraq. The void, the silence has a weird effect on families.

Havazelet is halfway through the first draft of a new novel. It stars another troubled family, but this time away from the East Coast, in a small town like Corvallis, where Havazelet lives. The father is a reform rabbi. The Holocaust doesn’t take a leading role.

It will be his first significant work to be set in the Northwest, and perhaps reflects some of what he says he’s experienced as a religious minority and immigrant here developing his own sense of himself: as a Jewish person, a religious person, or even simply as a man.

Oregon has helped with that. Nature is so big, it’s a better place for my questions. New York has so many answers and so many voices offering them. Here, you are left alone. What are you going to do? Are you going to have any questions?

Your questions for Ehud Havazelet or your reflections on his work are welcome.

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