Eli Shmueli is an author and poet living in Jerusalem, Israel. His debut novel, Marginsman (Pardes Publishing, 2015), was awarded four literary prizes in Israel, including the prestigious Pardes Fellowship of the National Library of Israel, the Rabinovich Foundation Award, the Goldberg Foundation prize for a manuscript, and the Ministry of Culture Prize. His second novel, The Poet and the Stripper, was published by Am Oved Publishers in 2020. His writing may be described as "dirty realism", focusing on the individuals commonly ignored in popular culture – the unsuccessful, those who did not accomplish their dreams. His poems appear in the printed media in Israel and were translated into English, Arabic, and Spanish. His poetry book The God That Failed Is You, was published in 2017. Shmueli was also a human rights worker at B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. In 2022 he was given the Prime Minister's Literary Award.
The Poet and the Stripper
Am Oved, 2020
Moving from one temporary job to another, all low-paying and grinding, Joshua dreams of becoming – and preferably soon – a famous poet; one who everybody talks about, is interviewed, and films are made about his life. For now, in a small apartment for which he has a hard time paying, he types his poems at nights on an antique typewriter (he turns the computer on only to watch porn), and during the days he plans what he will do with the hefty advance he will get before fame. He swaps jobs, grits his teeth during work hours and dreams at the same time. In order for his poetry book to be published he will do everything, unless his conscience stops him.
But what happens to him when he meets a sensual dancer who makes a living from dancing at private events? Will she divert him from his track or, quit the opposite, help him realize his big dream?
Twenty-five-year-old Joshua has never been with a woman. It is the late 1990s, and Jerusalem is submerged in nationalism and an unholy wretchedness. Amidst this, Joshua seeks love. When a war breaks out, the men are recruited, and Joshua is left behind. Before the war is over and the other men are back, he must find a way to a woman's heart. When he is not typing zip codes during night shifts in a post office distribution center, he walks the sidewalks of a demystified Jerusalem, to visit its euphoric dance bars and desolated pubs in an attempt to approach women, but time after time he encounters indifference and contempt. One night, a young woman appears at the post office, and is shown to the computer right next to Joshua’s. She speaks to him, and by that, becomes the first person in the room to ever address him.
“Try not to miss this strong, burning book. This is literature. That's how it looks like. Alive and blunt and painful and moving and alive again” (Yediot Ahronot); “Bukowskian figures, the misery pouring out of them like machine oil blackening the pavement” (Makor Rishon); “A breathtaking book” (La Isha Women’s Magazine).
The God that Failed is You
Salon des Refusés
Magazine (issue editor)
October 2019, Humanist Poetry issue