A haunting and understated exploration of identity and memory, by the Austrian-American academic (English/Univ. of...



A haunting and understated exploration of identity and memory, by the Austrian-American academic (English/Univ. of Innsbruck, Hebrew University) whose previous works (Jakob, 1991, etc.) have won numerous awards in Germany. Devorah, a young Austrian in Jerusalem, is in search of some key to her past. Raised in America in a family of Catholic âmigrâs, she's learned that her grandmother left Vienna in 1941 not simply because she was anti-Nazi, but because she was a Jew. In Israel, Devorah hopes to find out the truth behind her family's fictions, and as she makes inquiries among friends and relations about the circumstances of her family's wanderings, she begins to lose sight of her own place in the world: ""Uncertainty, secrets, and death--these were the qualities of my childhood. And silence."" The silence of Devorah's past becomes infused with the confusions of her present, however, when she falls in love with Sivan, a young Arab whom she meets in the Old Town. An Armenian Christian, Sivan is intense, brooding, and far too enigmatic for any woman's good. Devorah's friends warn her that he may be a Palestinian, as well as a terrorist, and Sivan's own frequent and unexplained disappearances do nothing to allay Devorah's fears. When a bus is blown up in the Old Town and dozens of bystanders are killed under circumstances that implicate not only Sivan but (unwittingly) Devorah herself, her fears intensify--but so, inexplicably, does her obsession. Within the private drama of Devorah's own uncertainty about herself and her real identity, Sivan provides a vivid and excruciating reminder that she's straddling a fence between two very different and hostile worlds. The resolution she settles on is no less painful or poignant--or credible--for being inevitable. Powerful, moving, and deft: Mitgutsch makes good use of the private meanings reflected in public events, and understands that the distinctions between them are as arbitrary and tenuous as any boundary drawn in the desert.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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