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The Blue Mountain

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,085 ratings  ·  78 reviews
The absorbing first novel by one of Israel's most important and acclaimed contemporary writers focuses on four idealistic early settlers of the modern state of Israel.
Set in a small rural village prior to the creation of the State of Israel, this funny and hugely imaginative book paints an extraordinary picture of a small community of Ukrainian immigrants as they pioneer a
Paperback, 378 pages
Published July 9th 2010 by Canongate UK (first published 1988)
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4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,085 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Greta by: Ram
 photo DFBA70EE-067C-4D3F-9064-CCBEEA88FB62.jpg
I and the village - Marc Chagall

A brilliant novel about the legacy of Israel's pioneering tradition and foundation (originally published under the Hebrew title 'A Russian Novel' in 1988).
A small group of jewish Ukrainian pioneer immigrants settle in the Jezreel Valley in Ottoman Palestine in the beginning of the twentieth century, many years before Israel officially became a State.

It portraits three generations of people, who live in a farm community (a co-op or moshav), founded by these pio
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about European Jewish pioneers, building their lives in the Jezreel valley with the second aliyah. There is barely any plot as we become acquainted with a bunch of larger than life characters from three generations through various stories. While there is no main story, we get an overall feel of life in the village, and get to know intimately the few families associated with the Feyge Levin Workingman’s Circle. The stories move between the factual (I presume) and the pu ...more
Jim Fonseca
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: israeli-authors
A story of early settlement in Israel, beginning shortly after the Balfour Declaration (during WW I), when thousands of immigrants arrived from Russia and the Ukraine. Our narrator is a young man in more recent times who listens to old timer’s tales about the early days before the village declined in population. He tries to sort out fact from fiction in the heroic stories. The chapters go back and forth in time, foreshadowing and repeating and adding to the major stories He lives in an agricultu ...more
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Israeli magical realism. Now, I love me some magical realism, and this book is one of the finest examples I've come across in a long, long time. As a new resident of Israel - and one without previous ties to the country - I really didn't know that much about the early history of the state. The book is set in a moshav (the less famous type of Israeli farming commune), and introduces the history without the historical get a feel for the period without the usual event-dropping that com ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Greta by: Ram
The Blue Mountain
The Blue Mountain by Meir Shalev

A brilliant novel about the legacy of Israel's pioneering tradition and foundation (originally published under the Hebrew title 'A Russian Novel' in 1988).
A small group of jewish Ukrainian pioneer immigrants settle in the Jezreel Valley in Ottoman Palestine in the beginning of the twentieth century, many years before Israel officially became a State.

It portraits three generations of people, who live in a farm community (a co-op or moshav), founded by these pioneers. All the
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Another amazing book by Meir Shalev. I gave it four stars rather than five stars only to distinguish it from A Pigion and Boy (also by Shalev), which I felt was just so unique. Blue Mountain contains the story of a rural village in Palestine in the early 1900's, prior to the establishment of Israel. Not only are the personalities and relationships depicted fascinating. One also gets a flavor for the stubborn way in which many of the founders of Israel tried to live in accord with their ideologie ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Something about visiting Israel attracts and repells me to this land. As its authors on both sides of the fence have physically and ideologically shaped this land, my first venture into Meir Shalev, recommended by a well read Steimatzky employee in Tel Aviv, has taken me beyond the politics of self interest and into the hearts and minds of those who physically labored a baren landscape. Blue Mountain is a must read for anyone fascinated by the complexity of Israel's birth, and Shalev's poetry br ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
As I child I clearly recall my deeply Christian parents talking approvingly about how “the desert blossomed” when the Jews resettled Palestine. This specific phrase held special appeal to us, since we were farmers ourselves. I did not know then (and would have been shocked to discover!) that many of those Jewish agrarian pioneers were completely secular and identified themselves as part of a socialist movement.

These secular pioneer settlers, and their experiences in Palestine long before the est
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, israel
I have always been fascinated by Israel and their history but, whatever I have read about Israel has always been written by a non-Jew. Researching about Israeli novelists, I came across Meir Shalev's name. Having never heard of him and guided by the high praises he has received, I searched for one of his books to read. The Blue Mountain was the one I settled on and, I believe it was his first novel.
The Blue Mountain is a wacky sort of novel with tons of characters, humor, and deep feelings and
Olga Milemis
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I do have the need to re-read Meir Shalev’s books again and again and, since every single time I am able to discover new aspects in them, they never disappoint me. In “The Blue Mountain” (1988, originally published in Hebrew as "Roman Rusi", English translation by Hillel Halkin, 1991), he describes the experiences of the immigrants who arrived to Palestine with the second Aliyah at the beginning of the 20th century and illustrates with a sensitive voice their lives in a rural village prior to th ...more
Avital Gertner-Samet
“A Russian Novel” was a masterpiece of describing characters. Each of the characters in the story had a complete story behind him. A full description of appearance and traits and skills and a long list of feelings and wills and loves and hatred. In this story, Shalev, skillfully told the story of a small group of veterans which had immigrated to Israel from Russia during the Second Immigration, which took place from 1904 until 1914. They had first lived under the British regime and had built the ...more
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book about a group of idealistic Jews who came to the Promised Land in the early 1900s as par of the Second Aliyah. The writing has been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s and I was reminded of Michael Chabon (Kavalier & Clay) and his eccentric characters. You got pulled into the characters’ lives and experiences – I found this book really interesting and compelling.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
It seems a lot of people read this book because they have some sort of connection to Israel; wether Israeli or visitors to the country. I belonged to the latter class and spent two years in Israel. Almost any "local" will recommend Meir Shalev (and David Grosmann) as good hebrew literature.

This book didn't let me down. It was very stylishly written. Good prose. The main character is nice albeit, it seems to me, less typical in its historical context. The motifs of the main character (as a proxy
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the first Shalev book I've ever read and I understand why he's so respected. the plot is completely original. It verges on true except where it veers off towards the fantastical, with a lot of humor, pathos and a sincere understanding of his (male) characters and the time period in which they live. Four stars because it is really long and because I found it hard to keep track of the many characters - referred to by first and last names, or sometimes one or the other. But the thing that m ...more
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
It was interesting to read this book the month after reading 'East of Eden'--with their common elements of emigrants, pioneers on the land, family epics, biblical themes of brothers and even on a common era--the time before and after WW1. I enjoyed the (very different) writing of both authors and in the end was struck by the the fundamental difference in their point of view---for Steinbeck, man's use of the free will granted by God to make choice in life, and for Shalev, the transient impact of ...more
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Read it in Russian. The book is about Jews migrated to Palestine in the beginning of last century. Sad and funny at the same time.

The book title in Hebrew and Russian is "Russian Novel". Shalev said that it was translated and published in English at the time of Gorbachev and "perestroika" and either his agent or translator advised him to choose something else for the title otherwise readers would think it's propaganda.
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
My very favorite book of all time. I've read it many times, and love every moment of it.
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting read about the first and second aliyah pioneers to Israel. Made more sense to me because I had already read the memoir by the author, since many parts of the story are of his own family's..

Could be a bit stilted due to the translation, but the constant circles of each generation, and the new generation carrying on old fights, shows how everything returns to itself, as the old teacher, Pinneas taught them. It even touches on the new narratives that are made romanticizing the hard
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book after a recent trip to Israel. It made real for me some of the early history of jews in Israel, and of the lives of Zionist, non-religious Jews in Israel. Of the vision of turning the desert into Paradise as carried out by socialistic, or even communistic, folks with an idea of being tied to the land in a new way. Told by the grandson of the founders of the farm community in which he lived, this colorful rendition of the simple life with its eccentric characters & ...more
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mark by: My mother
Shelves: finished-reading
In the original Hebrew the title of this book is "A Russian Novel." Of course, the title like that wouldn't make sense in English.

It's a story of Russian immigrants in Israel back from the beginning of the last century up to our times. I read this book in its Russian translation, but still was impressed with the language and the intricate story line. This novel consists of interlinked flash and near flash stories that are not sequential or linear. They weave in and out in a seemingly capricious
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Although a novel of magical realism, this novel is a nice introduction to the Second Aliyah, pioneer immigrants to Palestine/Israel, which I find a fascinating almost mythical period (which I imagine Shalev does as well.) The slow, circuitous unfolding of individual stories of the members of this community in the Jezreel Valley wraps the reader in threads of humor, tragedy, rancor, and passion. A couple favorites: the surprising revelation of the pioneer Zeitser and the imminent arrival of Shifr ...more
Brad Erickson
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
There are some very amusing, interesting and touching scenes in this book. I read about the middle 150 pages to my wife, and then things started to taper off. The book should have been about 100 pages shorter. The characters are hard to keep up with, but what was really hard to keep up with was the chronology. It jumps back and forth in time; you often don't know where you're at and have to check back to see. Still, a delightful book for the most part.
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish, middle-east
Wonderful writing. I loved the way Meir Shalev ascribes human emotions and thought processes to animals and even plants and the richness of the characters that populate this book.
Eric Khugaev
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Overall, it's a really charming must-read book for those who want to understand how some of hard-working Jewish people lived before and mostly after the establishment of Israel. Based on his personal story, Meir illustrates day-to-day life of one moshav (a cooperative farmer's community) in a very detailed way. Especially astonishing how Shalev tell us about the mule every time as if it'd be a human being.

Its original name in Hebrew is "A Russian roman". To make it clear, they call themselves Ru
Agnes Kelemen
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved most of it, the last third was slower and less engaging than the first two thirds, so it is slightly overwritten. Nevertheless I warmly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoyed "One hundred years of solitude" or "Love in the time of cholera" by Gabriel García Márquez. I should have brought another book to my trip, I finished this one too quickly. :)
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes challenging to follow (for me) but enjoyable, humorous and insightful.
Carole Reiss
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, always great read.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
better than A Pigeon and a Boy.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic realism at its best!
Jul 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
I like this book. Lost a little bit of interest but kept reading.
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Meir Shalev is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists. He has received many awards for his work, including the National Jewish Book Award and Israel’s Brenner Prize, both for A Pigeon and a Boy.

A columnist for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Shalev lives in Jerusalem and in northern Israel with his wife and children.