by A.B. Yehoshua ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 1999
The fine Israeli writer Yehoshua (Open Heart, 1996, etc.) makes a lengthy journey into the year 999, the end of the first millennium. Indeed, it is the idea of a great journey that is the heart of the story here. Ben Attar, a Moroccan Jewish merchant has come a long distance to France to seek out his nephew and former partner Abulafia. Ben Attar, the nephew, and a third partner, the Muslim Abu Lutfi, had once done a lucrative business importing spices and treasures from the Atlas Mountains to eager buyers in medieval Europe. But now their partnership has been threatened by a complex series of events, with Abulafia married to a pious Jewish widow who objects vehemently to Ben Attar's two wives. Accompanied by a Spanish rabbi, whose cleverness is belied by his seeming ineffectualness; the rabbi's young son, Abu Lutfi; the two wives; a timorous black slave boy, and a crew of Arab sailors, the merchant has come to Europe to fight for his former partnership. The battle takes place in two makeshift courtrooms in the isolated Jewish communities of the French countryside, in scenes depicted with extraordinary vividness. Yehoshua tells this complex, densely layered story of love, sexuality, betrayal and "the twilight days, [when] faiths [are] sharpened in the join between one millennium and the next" in a richly allusive, languorous prose, full of lengthy, packed sentences, with clauses tumbling one after another. De Lange's translation is sensitively nuanced and elegant, catching the strangely hypnotic rhythms of Yehoshua's style. As the story draws toward its tragic conclusionâ€”but not the one you might expectâ€”the effect is moving, subtle, at once both cerebral and emotional. One of Yehoshua's most fully realized works: a masterpiece.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 1999
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999
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