A LATE DIVORCE by A. B. Yehoshua


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Strong family fiction from Israeli novelist Yehoshua (The Lover)--marred, however, by self-conscious literary styling (especially a severe case of Faulkner-itis). His central situation is undeniably powerful: Yehudah Kaminka, 64, has come back to Israel after a decade or so as a US college teacher; now that his 40-ish mistress Connie is pregnant, he wants an overdue divorce from wife Naomi--who has been institutionalized for years. (Among the mad--or not so mad?--acts in her past: stabbing Kaminka.) So Kaminka's nine-day visit with his three children, leading up to the Passover holiday, is intensely detailed here--the narration moving from one family member to another through the week, shedding varied light on ""this forty-year-old neurotic mess."" First, in Haifa, the narrator is Kaminka's small grandson Gaddi--who describes (in run-on sentences that fail to evoke the child's-eye view) the arrival of this grandfather/stranger, oddly youthful though suffering from jet-lag. Then Gaddi's father, tatty lawyer Kedmi, takes over--complaining about everybody, tactlessly presenting the divorce papers to his mother-in-law in the asylum (who now refuses to sign). Next, as Kaminka visits his neurotic professor-son Asi in Jerusalem, Asi's edgy young wife Dina narrates: she's a would-be writer, and still a virgin. Then Asi, traveling with his half-hated father to Halfa for the big asylum showdown, describes the ensuing horror-scene--capped by his own baby-like tantrum (and followed by his degrading run-in with a prostitute). After this, Kaminka visits suave, homosexual son Tsvi--who sides with Mother--in Tel Aviv: two all-dialogue chapters (one of them pretentiously Pinter-esque) fill in Tsvi's lifestyle, his rather ugly relationship with a middle-aged, married, doting banker. Then: a flash-forward narrated by Kaminka's daughter Ya'el--revealing that Kaminka died suddenly during the week in question (leaving his American baby fatherless). And finally Passover begins, the divorce papers are signed at last--but narrations by Naomi and Kaminka themselves sketch in the ironic, black--comic conclusion to this sad, bitter affair. Yehoshua complicates, and distracts from, an already-complicated, dense mosaic--with artsy prose-approaches in about half the chapters. And a few of the psychological side-trips seem unnecessary. Still, the microscopic focus offers up dozens of painful, credible family moments (embarrassment, disappointment, suppressed rage); vividly evoked, too, are nuanced cultural/religious tensions within Israel. So, though flawed, this is far more compelling than The Lover--if less intensely informative about social and political aspects of Israeli life.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1983
ISBN: 0156494477
Publisher: Doubleday