Yehoshua’s intelligent and refined novel recalls once again Faulkner’s famous dictum that “the past isn’t dead. It isn’t...

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THE RETROSPECTIVE

An elegant and graceful translation of Yehoshua’s 2011 Hesed Sefaradi, a novel about an aging Israeli director reviewing both his films and his life.

Yair Moses and his longtime companion, Ruth, are visiting Santiago de Compostela for a three-day retrospective of his long career. It’s appropriate that the screenings be in Santiago, for Moses is also making a pilgrimage of sorts, viewing early work he hasn’t seen for 40 years. Ruth was his major actress in these early films and at the time, was the lover of Trigano, a brilliant screenwriter and former student of Moses—though they had a falling out about a delicate scene in a film and for years have barely talked to each other. Much of the first part of the novel is taken up by Moses’ complex and sometimes bewildered reaction to his films from the ’60s, for in those films, he had an “absurdist” aesthetic that he’d later gotten away from. He’s both bemused and perplexed to see his films dubbed in Spanish, a language he doesn’t understand. He’s also fascinated almost to the point of obsession by a painting in his hotel room, a 17th-century Dutch work depicting an ancient Roman story of Cimon being nursed by his daughter Pera, a scene eerily reminiscent of a segment he’d cut from an earlier movie, the very scene that caused the break between Moses and his screenwriter. Upon his return to Israel, Moses feels the need to get in touch with the prickly Trigano, who feels he’s largely responsible for Moses’ early success.

Yehoshua’s intelligent and refined novel recalls once again Faulkner’s famous dictum that “the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-49696-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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