SOUMCHI by Amos Oz

SOUMCHI

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KIRKUS REVIEW

We've seen a number of pale little ""everyday life"" stories in which a boy swaps one item for another and continues swapping until he ends up, perhaps, with empty hands but some intangible gain. This British translation (lirot, a footnote explains, are pounds) of a story from Israel follows basically the same course--but what a difference spirit and talent make! Soumchi, so named by teasing classmates, is an eleven-year-old boy living in Jerusalem shortly after World War II, dreaming of exotic adventure and writing undelivered love poems to Esthie, a girl in his class. Soumchi is delighted when his uncle gives him a bicycle, but he is soon induced, by a better-off boy whose parents won't allow him to have a bike, to trade it for a model train. (This one will be hidden.) On his way home Soumchi is forced by tough-guy Goel Germanski to swap the train for Goel's dog. Soumchi doesn't object to the deal, but when the dog breaks away and returns to Goel, Soumchi is left with nothing but a pencil sharpener he finds in the street. How Soumchi agonizes over returning home without the bike, and how this eventually leads to a wonderful night at Esthie's family's apartment--and then to six whole weeks of love and friendship with Esthie--is told, like the earlier events, with zest and buoyant humor, from the dual viewpoint of the alternately crushed and elated Soumchi and the amused author who delights in his boyhood excesses. Oz's prologue, epilogue, and mock-heroic chapter headings make light of the whole story, at the same time providing a perspective that is essentially more serious than our trivial exercises in shallow identification allow,

Pub Date: March 18th, 1981
ISBN: 1592640389
Publisher: Harper & Row