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Sagi, Eli

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Author.

(1939-    ) Polish-born author and playwright, born Eli Perlstein, changing his name after emigration to Israel at an early age. He is predominantly known for his Television and Theatre work, creating the Arab-Hebrew sitcom Ha'misada Ha'gdola ["The Big Restaurant"] in 1985, which was widely successful both in Israel and across the Middle East; and for his 1970 stage play Imi Ha'generalit ["My Mother, The General"], considered the most commercially successful play in the history of Israeli theatre.

Sagi's significance to Israeli science fiction, however, is due to his earlier work in the 1960s. As a novelist, he created one of the earliest examples of genuine sf in Hebrew, the series Harpat'kotav Shel Captain Yuno ["The Adventures of Captain Yuno"], which follows the adventures of two children, Yuno and Vena, who stow away on board the Spaceship Cosmar 2 as it leaves Earth. The ship is tasked with discovering the whereabouts of an earlier crew, who disappeared mysteriously en route to the planet Venus. In the first book, Harpatkotav Shel Captain Yuno Al Ha'kochav Ha'mistori ["The Adventures of Captain Yuno on the Mysterious Planet"] (1963) the crew find themselves on the planet Mercury, here described (as was thought at the time) as a world with one hemisphere eternally facing the Sun, and the other in permanent darkness. Two Alien races, imaginatively described, occupy each hemisphere, and are at war with each other. Adventures ensue. At last a surviving crew member is discovered, the ship returns to Earth and Yuno is given the rank of captain by the head of Earth's space programme, a Professor Asimov. The book shows a wealth of invention, including the use of a detailed alien language (see Linguistics).

In the second tale, Be'shlichut Mesukenet ["On A Dangerous Mission"] (1963), Earth is under threat of invasion, and Cosmar 2, with Yuno and Vena now part of the crew, is sent to Venus, a world of jungles and swamps. Indeed, the series seems to follow the conventions laid down by the Planetary Romances of 1940s American sf. The Venusians themselves are four-armed aliens not unlike the Red Martians of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom sequence. Yuno is thought dead but escapes by hijacking a Venusian flying saucer. En route home, he spots a crewman from the missing ship stranded on an Asteroid, which leads to the third and final book in the series, Bein Shodedei Ma'arechet Ha'shemesh ["Amidst the Pirates of the Solar System"] (1964), in which Yuno and his colleagues return to locate the missing cosmonaut. They are abducted by the people of Jupiter (the series' villains), but eventually escape. At the end of the book, Yuno discovers a scroll which lists where each of the remaining crew members can be found, and the book ends with the promise of the next in the series: «The Adventures of Captain Yuno in the Lost Kingdom of Mars», which was projected but never published.

Though perhaps remembered mostly nostalgically, the three books – charmingly illustrated by the prolific artist M Aryeh – stand out as early examples of genuine Israeli sf, both fiction and art. Though never reprinted, the books have continued to be read for decades, if only in libraries, and are cited as an influence at least by the author Lavie Tidhar, who makes several references to them in his own fiction. [LTi]

Eli Sagi

born Poland: 1939

works (selected)


The Adventures of Captain Yuno


previous versions of this entry

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