Skip to main content
Cover for Pain


A Novel

Zeruya Shalev, Sondra Silverston (Translated by)


List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


“Zeruya Shalev is one of my favorite contemporary writers, her work always spiky and original, and Pain is a searing book, a wild and ravenous story of family entanglement and impossible yearning.” Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and Furies

A powerful, astute novel that exposes how old passions can return, testing our capacity to make choices about what is most essential in life.

Ten years after she was seriously injured in a terrorist attack, the pain comes back to torment Iris. But that is not all: Eitan, the love of her youth, also comes back into her life. Though their relationship ended many years ago, she was more deeply wounded when he left her than by the suicide bomber who blew himself up next to her.

Iris's marriage is stagnant. Her two children have grown up and are almost independent; she herself has become a dedicated, successful school principal. Now, after years without passion and joy, Eitan brings them back into her life. But she must concoct all sorts of lies to conceal her affair from her family, and the lies become more and more complicated.

Is this an impossible predicament, or on the contrary a scintillating revelation of the many ways life's twists and turns can bring us to a place we would never have expected to be?

Praise For Pain: A Novel

Winner of the Jan Michalski Prize

“Shalev reminds readers in keen, often brilliant prose that love, like pain, is indelible…a riveting exploration of family, sex and motherhood.” —New York Times Book Review

“Always incisive on the complexities of family and relationship dynamics…Shalev plunges the reader into a whirlwind story of impossible choices.” —The Guardian, Best New Books in Translation

“Shalev is especially attentive to the way that wounds never completely vanish, causing infinitely splintering recriminations and deliberations, and to the nuances of marriage, motherhood, middle-age and middle-class ennui. Iris’s spinning, capricious internal monologue is evoked with a dreamlike intensity…Pain burrows under the skin.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Shalev is a vivid and impassioned writer.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With its heady musings on what makes love pure, Pain is a blistering novel that pits passion against ordinary commitments.” —Foreword Reviews
“A complex meditation on the intricate ripples of cause and effect in our lives.” —Booklist
“A midlife crisis novel with a lot of meditation over choice and chance and how they impact what follows, this story by Shalev…effectively depicts contemporary Israeli life.” —Library Journal

“An impressive and vivid account of a woman trying to deal with events she cannot control…[Shalev’s] visceral and textured descriptions of physical discomfort and agonizing pain add another dimension to the protagonist’s psychological complexity…exquisite.” —Jerusalem Post

“There are few living writers who can capture the fluctuations of human feeling with greater nuance and precision than Zeruya Shalev. To read her novels is to enter a profoundly familiar but usually unarticulated geography, where the push and pull of sexual desire, familial attachment, and anticipatory fears mingle to create an atmosphere of psychological suspense so acute the reader loses herself entirely. Pain is yet another work by this remarkable artist that left me amazed.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of Memories of the Future

“Zeruya Shalev is one of my favorite contemporary writers, her work always spiky and original, and Pain is a searing book, a wild and ravenous story of family entanglement and impossible yearning.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and Furies

“A great book that ends with a therapeutic catharsis.” —Amos Oz, author of Judas
“Captivating…a brilliant reflection on the dominance of the past over the present, of the ideal over the real, of the couple over the individual.” —Elle (France)
“Shalev does what she does best: telling family tales of love, of redemption and of disillusion, rich in emotional strength, inviting the reader to be swallowed up by the story and giving a sense of purification when it is over…The novel celebrates pain and sheds light on its role in emotional life.” —Haaretz

Praise for Zeruya Shalev: 

“One of the most talented writers of our time.” —Leïla Slimani, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny

Other Press, 9781590510926, 368pp.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

About the Author

Zeruya Shalev was born at Kibbutz Kinneret. She is the author of four previous novels, The Remains of Love, Love Life, Husband and Wife, and Thera, and a book of poetry and two children’s books. Her work has been translated into twenty-seven languages and won multiple awards, including the Corine International Book Prize, the Welt Literature Award, and the Prix Femina étranger.

Sondra Silverston has translated the work of Israeli fiction writers such as Etgar Keret, Savyon Liebrecht, and Aharon Megged. Her translation of Amos Oz’s Between Friends won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction in 2013. Born in the United States, she has lived in Israel since 1970.