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Famous Like Me > Writer > L > Hanoch Levin

Profile of Hanoch Levin on Famous Like Me

Name: Hanoch Levin  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 18th December 1943
Place of Birth: Tel Aviv, Palestine [now Israel]
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Hanoch Levin (December 18, 1943 - August 18, 1999), in Hebrew חנוך לוין, was an Israeli playwright, theater director, poet, and author.

Early life

Hanoch Levin was born December 18, 1943, to Malka and Israel Levin, who immigrated to Israel in 1935 from Lodz, Poland. He grew up in a religiously traditional home in the Neve Shanan neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv. He attended Jabetz Religious Primary School, a government school. His brother David Levin, nine years older, worked as an assistant director in the 1950s at the Cameri Theater. Thus young Hanoch was exposed to the theater world on both sides of the curtain. When he was twelve, his father, the proprietor of a neighborhood grocery store, died of a heart attack. Hanoch began to study at the Zeitlin Religious High School in Tel Aviv. After he completed ninth grade, his mother asked him to assist with the family earnings. Levin started working as a messenger for the Herut company. He enrolled in night classes for working youth at the Municipal One (ערוני א') middle school. In the course of his studies there he joined a drama club and played in Michal, Daughter of Saul by Aharon Ashman.

Professional life

After serving his compulsory military duty as a code clerk in the signal corps, Levin began to study philosophy and Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University (1964-1967). In 1965 he joined the editorial board of the Dorban newspaper, one of the university's two student newspapers. Some passages from the period were republished, with thorough revisions, as part of his later work. For example, "A Hardened Ballad of a Soldier Man and Woman" from June 1966 was revised as "Black Eagle on a Red Roof" and published after the 1982 Lebanon War.

During his university studies, Levin associated with the Communist Party, where he met Danny Tratch, the dramatist of the Communist youth. A friendship and professional kinship developed between the two that lasted beyond the period of their party activities.

In 1967, Levin published a poem called "Birkot ha-Shahar" (the name of the Jewish "dawn blessings") in the literary journal Yochani. It was received with high regard in the country's literary societies. The poem later appeared in his book Life of the Dead. In Haaretz he published the stories "Stubborn Dina" (1966) and "Pashishpash" (1971, also published in the book The Eternal Invalid and the Beloved), as well as the verse cycles "Party Song of the Wicked: An Idyll" (1968, later appeared in Life of the Dead) and "Flawed People" (1970). Following Meir Wieseltier's invitations, he began in 1971 to publish stories, poems, and verse in the literary journal Exclamation Point (סימן קריאה): "The World of the Sycophantes" in 1973, "A Hunchback Finds a Prostitute" in 1976, "Life of the Dead" in 1981, and others.

Also in 1967, Levin sent a radio play called Catch the Spy to a radio drama competition at Kol Israel, winning first prize. The show, under the direction of David Levin, was broadcast several times. Levin's translation into English won first prize in 1969 in a radio drama competition in Italy. It was later published in the book Finale.

With the favorable reception of his efforts at "fine" literature, Levin worked in this period (1967-1970) at writing political satirical plays. In March 1968 he began to work with the director Edna Shavit on the cabaret show You, Me and the Next War, which he had begun to compose a year earlier. This show was first mounted in August 1968 at the club Bar-Barim in Tel Aviv, by four of Shavit's students in the theater society at Tel Aviv University. It was produced by Danny Tratch. Levin's next opus was a radio satire called Ketchup, directed by his brother David Levin, that was first presented in the basement of The Satirical Cabaret in Tel Aviv, March 1969. In these two works Levin opposed Israeli military pathos (as in the parody "Victory Parade for the 11 Minutes War" of the victory speech by General Shmuel Gonen at the close of the Six-Day War), mocked the helplessness and complacency of Israel's politicians ("Peace Talks in the Middle East"), and presented a macabre treatment of bereavement ("Squares in the Cemetery").

The criticism directed at Levin following You, and Me and the Next War and Ketchup deepened after the premiere of his third political play, Queen of the Bathtub (not "The Queen of the Bathtub" as has been written many times in error), put on by the Cameri Theater in April 1970. David Levin directed the play, which included among its material vulgar expressions, a scene ("The Binding") in which Isaac begs his father Abraham not to hesitate to slaughter him, and mocking of Israeli volubility and arrogance ("The Courting"). Perhaps because it was presented on the stage of an established theater, the play aroused an unprecedented storm of public opinion. Viewers protested and made a disturbance during the performances. The National Religious Party demanded censorship of a song that, in its opinion, profaned the honor of the Bible. The government threatened to withdraw its financial support from the theater. The criticism further addressed the play itself: "a combination of flawed dialogues and ditties attempting to toss salt on our open wound" (Haim Gamzo); "From this 'theatrash' (mahazevel) it is proclaimed that we are all despicable killers, citizens of a militarist, money-grabbing state." (Uri Porat); and "a scene about a reporter, who comes to interview a young widow whose husband fell in the trenches, and plays at love with her—only a demonic or infirm mind could devise... it's a malicious abuse of thousands of bereaved parents" (Reuven Yanai). In spite of Levin's objections, the theater's management decided, in the wake of these outraged responses, to close the show after only nineteen performances.

Levin's first "artistic" play was the comedy Solomon Grip, which premiered in May 1969 at the Open Theater under direction of Hillel Ne'eman. He achieved his first great public success with his next comedy, Hefez, which was mounted on the stage of the Haifa Theater in March 1972, directed by Oded Kottler. This play had previously been passed up by the Cameri and Habima. His next play, Ya'akobi and Leidental, the first that Levin also directed, was first presented in December 1972 at the Cameri Theater. During the 1970s, he continued to write and direct plays that primarily appeared at the Haifa Theater and Cameri (see the list of plays below). During this period Levin also wrote two screenplays: Floch, directed by Danny Wolman in 1972, and Fantasy on a Romantic Theme, directed by Vitek Tracz in 1977. The two movies earned the acclaim of critics, but not the public.

The next great tempest occurred in the wake of the play Job's Passion in 1981. The play included a scene in which the naked Job, in the person of Yosef Carmon, is impaled through his back on a pole by the Caesar's soldiers, and is sold to a circus so that his death throes can draw a crowd. Miriam Taaseh-Glazer, at the time the Deputy Minister of Education and Culture, announced from the Knesset dais that the State need not fund a theater "where a naked guy hangs for ten minutes with all his privates waving around." Levin's next play, The Great Whore from Babylon (1982), aroused opposition even among his colleagues the Cameri Theater actors, chiefly Yossi Yadin. Following this opposition, the play was cut by twenty minutes.

Levin returned to political writing with his play The Patriot, which opened October 1982 at the Neve Zedek Theater, directed by Oded Kottler. The play presents, among other things, an Israeli citizen who asks to emigrate to the United States. On account of this, the American consul asks him to spit on his mother, to kick an Arab boy's face, and afterward, to taunt God. Despite that the Council for Film and Drama Criticism banned the entire play, Kottler decided to present it. Yitzhak Zamir, then the government's legal counsel, recommended indictments against the theater management for transgressing censorship law. The play was allowed to go on only after it was edited down.

During the 1980s, some of the critics charged that Levin was repeating material in his plays (Yakish and Poupche, Hamitlabet), although his later plays (The Dreaming Child, Those Who Walk in the Darkness, Repose, and others) received widespread acclaim.

Although his chief activity was in the theater, Levin also wrote popular songs ("Almost a Man, Already a Woman" recorded by Yehudit Ravitz, "What Does the Bird Care" recorded by Aharit Hayamim, "I Live From Day to Day" recorded by Rita, "London" recorded by Chava Alberstein); published two books of prose (The Eternal Invalid and the Beloved and A Man Stands Behind a Seated Woman) and a book of poetry (Life of the Dead); and composed and directed episodes of the TV show Gov Night ("How We Played—Pranks of Chupak and Afchuk").

In 2000 the musician Dudi Levi released the disk Hanoch Levin Project, comprising eleven songs whose words Hanoch Levin composed.

Levin was known for his consistent refusal to be interviewed by media organizations, which he adopted since the early 1970s. In one of the few interviews that he gave at the beginning of his career (to Michael Handelsalz from Israel Army Radio), he answered the question "Why do you write specifically for the theater?":

(Unauthorized translation) I just think, the theater, it's much more charming, much more involving when you see these things on the stage. It's just much more exciting, I don't know why... you see the world, that way, formed on the stage. I don't know whether the material takes on a different quality, or it's better or worse, but in any case for me it's more exciting, material that's produced on the stage.

Later life

Levin married twice, to Naava Koresh and to Edna Koren. His partner in later years was Lilian Baretto. These women bore him four children.

Levin passed away on August 18, 1999, from cancer. 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. During his lifetime he composed 63 plays and directed 22 of them.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Hanoch Levin