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As in My Michael (1971) this innovative Israeli author views the incongruities of human pretension in the face of a sour reality with a light compassionate irony. In this kibbutz tale set in a valley with ""its neat geometrical patchwork of fields"" confronting the enemy and the ""savage bleakness of the mountains,"" the author utilizes some popular Israeli literary themes, turned inside out to reveal a few fraying seams. An archetypical man of the soil, quoting his Bible, succumbs to the neurotic sexual needs of a teen-age girl who happens to be the daughter of his wife's lover. So much for sweaty nobility. We then glide into a bubemise, a gossipy village scandal involving the entire community. But then, deeper into the shadows of shtefl moralities, the advocates of light and dark take over when the girl conceives and both struggle for her destiny. In this case it's a visitor from Germany, the old sybarite Uncle Zechariah, who sets off sparks which could only come from cloven hooves. But the community does rid itself of the intruder and the girl is happily married and brought back into its bloodstream. Along the way Oz gently satirizes kibbutzim ""enlightenment,"" including new educational theories (grandparents ""may look -- but only look -- at their grandchildren"") but this is essentially an appealing tribute to the persistence of pathos and warmth among human beings clustered against the night. Fresh and original.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1973
ISBN: 0156284758
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich