“Hanoch Levin: Selected Plays: Three Volumes” by Hanoch Levin— Remembering a Master

Levin, Hanoch. “Hanoch Levin: Selected Plays: Three Volumes”, Oberon Books, 2020.

Remembering a Master

Amos Lassen

Hanoch Levin was born in Tel Aviv on December 18, 1943 and died of cancer on August 18, 1999. He wrote plays, sketches, songs, stories and poetry, and also directed most of his own plays. As a playwright and stage director, he had his own unique dramatic and theatrical language which he created by combining poetic written text and images designed with the actors and set designers, costume and lighting, composer and choreographer. His dramas are characterized by his ability to combine the work of different artists and “have always been a celebration of words and visual images, based on a great love for the theater and all who take part in the performance.”

When I lived in Israel, I never missed a Levin production. I knew Hanoch as both an artist and a man and he mystified me and I loved him. His legacy is both artistic and spiritual. It consists of 63 plays (except for his political satires, only 33 of his plays were performed in his lifetime and 22 were directed by him, two books of prose, two collections of sketches and songs, a book of poems and two books for children. In 1999, the last year of his life, he took care to publish all his works. We are so lucky to finally have them in English now.

Levin was modernity on stage. His world was both horrible and hilarious. It is a world that is filled with contradictions that cannot be avoided and it is both tragic and pleasurable. Levin’s world is the real world, the one we live in daily but do not want to acknowledge. For Israel, he displays her joys and pleasures and her agonies and does the same for Palestine with

the weakness of the oppressor and the strength of the oppressed. He wrote of the East and also the West both today, yesterday and antiquity. He is a personal quarrel and “the violent political thrashings about of a nation in turmoil.” He is both the citizen and the refugee, the lost and the found, the owner occupier and the homeless. His voice is tremendous as are his plays that provide a huge challenge to theatres, actors, directors, producers, and audiences. His courage had no bounds and we need to hear his messages.  

At first Levin wrote poetry, but later concentrated on the theatre. He became resident playwright of the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv and also worked with Habimah, Israel’s national theater. He received numerous theatre awards both in Israel and abroad―most notably at the Edinburgh Festival―and his plays have been staged around the world. Levin was awarded the Bialik Prize in 1994. Before he died of cancer on August 18, 1999, he continued to work even in the hospital, nearly to his last day, but didn’t have time to finish the staging of his play “The Crybabies.”

Plays One contains the plays Krum (1975), A Winter Funeral (1978), The Torments of Job (1981), Suitcase Packers (1983) and The Labour of Life (1989). Translated by Jessica Cohen, Evan Fallenberg and Naaman Tammuz.

Plays Two contains the plays Schitz (1989), The Lost Women of Troy (1989), The Child Dreams (1993), Walkers in the Dark (1998) and Requiem (1999). Translated by Jessica Cohen, Evan Fallenberg, Leland Frankel, Lee Nishri and Naaman Tammuz.

Plays Three contains the plays The Constant Mourner (1999), The Thin Soldier (1999), The Lamenters (2000) and Bachelors and Bachelorettes (2002). Translated by Jessica Cohen, Evan Fallenberg and Naaman Tammuz.