INTERVIEW: Ofir Touché Gafla, Author of THE WORLD OF THE END

Photo by Yanai Yechiel
Photo by Yanai Yechiel

Ofir Touché Gafla was born in Israel in 1968. Before he became a novelist, he wrote scripts for animation, a rock opera (Quartet & Quinteta), a series of short stories (Bodycase) and a children’s story (“The Case of Dr. Op and the Serious Plague”) for the Rotterdam Festival, a short story (“King Papaya”) accompanying an instrumental CD by Kobi Israelite, and more. His first book, The World of the End, was published in 2004 and became a bestseller and a cult book. It also won the 2005 Geffen Award for the best fantasy/science fiction novel of the year and the 2006 Kugel Award for Hebrew literature. His later novels include The Cataract in the Mind’s Eye (2005), Behind the Fog (2007), and The Day the Music Died (2010). He has also published many short stories in magazines and anthologies. He teaches creative writing in the Sam Spiegel School of TV and Cinema in Jerusalem.

The World of the End just came out in the U.S. this June, and Ofir was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book!


Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Ofir Touché Gafla: I have written five novels so far: The World of The End, The Cataract In The Mind’s Eye, Behind The Fog, The Day The Music Died and The Book of Disorder. I am not a one-genre man, which means my books are a mixture of different literary styles, enabling me to explore fiction to the fullest with no limitations. I have written since I was seven years old, when I discovered the power of creation, writing a certain word and then picturing the written object in my mind’s eye. I teach creative writing at Sam Spiegel School of Film and TV in Jerusalem and at some workshops.

KC: Your award winning fantasy, THE WORLD OF THE END, was recently released here in the states! What inspired you to write it?

OTG: Many things inspired me to write The World of The End. I was very interested in investigating the concept of the end, bearing in mind that as humans we always look ahead and envision some end in sight, both metaphorically and literally. I wanted to write a story that begins at the conventional ending, that is to say death, and move forwards in a world where there is no end in sight, a world whose basic foundations and principles defy our understanding of the concept of end. I was also inspired by certain subject matters such as love in the face of eternity and obsession as a driving force.

KC: What do you like most about your main character, Ben Mendelssohn, and why should we root for him?

OTG: Ben Mendellsohn is a man who writes endings for a living, until he is faced with the troubling question of the ending of his own personal story. I like his profession and his pragmatism, but more than anything, I like his tenacity and his willing to go all the way to get what he’s after – a reunion with his departed wife. I don’t always agree with his ways, but I admire his stubbornness and his slightly mad streak, and I think that readers should root for him because he embarks on the craziest of journeys and through him we can ask ourselves questions that have to do with our actions had we been in a similar position. Love, even under ‘normal’ circumstances, is a constant whirligig of self-probing. I believe that Ben affords us an intriguing glimpse at love confronted by the daunting powers of time, eternity and human frailty. Finally, I think Ben is human, namely, imperfect, and these are the characters I enjoy writing about the most- damaged, flawed, stained by experience, human to a fault.

KC: What are some of the biggest influences on your writing?

OTG: Every book I have ever read, good as well as bad. There’s a long list of writers whose writing has influenced me a reader, not necessarily as a writer, among which you can find Salman Rushdie (duh), John Irving, Marcel Proust, John Banville, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Coe, and the list goes on forever. Interestingly enough, I feel more influenced by music, perhaps because music is like the psychological soundtrack for a happening or for a protagonist’s emotions, and the artist who has influenced me the most is the one and only Kate Bush, whose haunting lyrics, otherworldly voice, gorgeous music and perfect choice of subjects have filled me with unparalleled joy over the years. Another musician who has influenced me a lot is Dmitry Shostakovich, the classical composer whose freedom of imagination and wealth of expression have taught me a lot.

KC: What do you like to see in a good book?

OTG: I like to see many things in a good book: I’m looking for a good story, an interesting technique of telling it, a clever turn of phrase and more than anything a unique voice that accompanies the book like an inevitable shadow. A good book is the sweetest of friendships: brief yet long-lived, intriguing yet easily solved, loyal yet elusive.

KC: Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?

OTG: Well, I really hate putting a face down, but if I do, it’s usually because I feel it is a waste of time (mind you, I’m an extremely patient reader), or because the writing is bad, or since I question it and my suspension of disbelief goes down the drain or if I feel it’s going nowhere. But again, it happens quite rarely since I choose my reading material very carefully and I’m very seldom disappointed.

KC: What would you like to see readers take away from THE WORLD OF THE END?

OTG: Well, readers have always said that my books are thought provoking. I’d like new readers to enjoy the book and feel like their minds are provoked to ask questions and hopefully the story or the thoughts and reflections born out of it will stay with them.

KC: What’s next for you?

OTG: I have just started working on my sixth novel, which promises a two-year journey (if I’m lucky, considering how busy I am). I’m also very excited about going next year to Texas to teach the fall semester at the University of Texas in Austin. And I’m sure there’s a lot more on the way…