An unorthodox, idiosyncratic portrait of Dvora Baron (18871956), an eccentric Israeli writer. Lieblich (Seasons of Captivity: The Experience of POW's in the Middle East, 1994, etc.; Psychology/Hebrew Univ., Israel) creates a series of imagined conversations between herself and Israel's first modern female Hebrew writer. From these conversations a perturbing portrait emerges both of a particular woman and of women's lives in general in the Russian shtetl and early Zionist settlements in Palestine. Baron was something of a phenomenon. Her father, a rabbi, was so impressed with her scholastic ability that he gave her an intense Jewish education alongside her brother. Infused with a love of learning, she left home at age 15 to pursue a secular education in Minsk. Baron became obsessed, however, with the plight of the many women who did not have her options. The author imagines her saying, ``Always and everywhere I saw their suffering. Those who were not touched by poverty or illness or fear of being put out in the street suffered at the hands of their husbands.'' Other imagined conversations delve into such topics as solitude, marriage, and the artistic temperament. Following her brother's death in 1923, the 36-year-old Baron secluded herself in her Tel Aviv apartment, where she remained mostly confined to her bed for over 30 years. The true nature of Baron's malady never emerges here, but her obsessive need for solitude does. And her strong bond with her only daughter, Tsipora—who dedicated her life to caring for her mother—remains unsettling. Although Baron's marriage to a journalist and social activist had enriched her life, she seems, in Lieblich's version, ambivalent about the institution of marriage. ``There is little hope for a man or woman who has reclusive tendencies, and a fragile talent that requires solitude, to acclimate themselves to domestic life.'' Supplemented by a short story by Baron, this book may reveal more about the biographer's psyche than her subject's. Nevertheless, its form and contents intrigue.
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