I must confess, hero though he now is to me, Kafka was not a childhood hero. My loss. In fact, I had no interest in literature or books as a child. Kafka came to me in university (as did Leonard Cohen, another childhood hero mentioned here).
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Franz Kafka, at age five.
My childhood heroIt might be a literary hero like Tarzan, a historical figure like the prosecuter Gideon Hausner, and it could certainly be one's own parent - everyone has a childhood hero who seemed invincible and who remains etched in the memory. To mark the new year, Haaretz Magazine asked writers, artists and thinkers to look back in honor.
Photo by: David Bachar
Zeruya Shalev, writer
I was a little girl when I first became aware of Franz Kafka. On a rainy winter night, when the power went out, my father read to us by candlelight the novella "Metamorphosis." I don't remember how far we got, but when the lights came back on I was a different girl. The gates of consciousness had opened and a new guest had entered, who brought with him a bleak, incisive and alluring world, a new set of rules. And he has stayed with me ever since, a weak and sickly hero who is nevertheless brimming with strength. In my childhood fantasies, his fate was not yet sealed - a miracle might yet be able to cure him - and maybe I would even be the one to save Franz Kafka.
Shulamit Aloni, politician and activist
Out of all my teachers, S. Yizhar - who taught me literature, history and Bible from eighth through tenth grade at the Ben Shemen Youth Village - had the biggest influence on me. I still remember by heart entire lessons that he gave and the melody of his voice, and I know by heart all the poems of Hayim Nahman Bialik with both an Ashkenazi and Sephardic pronunciation. I kept in touch with him as an adult, too, and I met with him just a few days before his death. When he taught us he was already a well-known writer, but we knew him as a wonderful teacher. With him we stormed the revolutionary barricades, toured the royal palaces and experienced history in bold colors. Knowing him was the experience of a lifetime.
I was 11 when I heard the song "I'm Your Man" for the first time and I fell in love with Leonard Cohen. The lyrical music, the profound lyrics, his unique voice, moved me then and have moved me ever since. When I was a kid, I saw a documentary about him and my admiration grew. He is an incredible poet who comes across as a modest person who's not afraid to laugh at himself and who is able to make great changes in his life. He became a hermit at the height of his success. He inspires respect and appreciation and he is blessed with a quality that I love: He remains young in spirit despite his advanced age.