Oz's most experimental fiction in years uses poetry and prose to tell a convoluted story of interlocking relationships.
A new novel from one of the most compelling voices in Israeli literature (The Story Begins, 1999, etc.) should be a cause for celebration, but The Same Sea is at best an intriguing mess. The problem lies in a collision of form and content, and a large cast of characters whose relationships are intricate without being interesting. Albert, an accountant, is recently widowed; his son Enrico is now wandering the Himalayas, trying to learn why his mother died. Dita, Enrico's girlfriend, swindled by would-be film producer Dubi, moves in with Albert in an act of desperation. Albert tries to untangle her contract with Dubi and ends up as Dubi’s tax adviser (and reluctant father figure). Add to this a mysterious Portuguese woman who sleeps with Enrico, a carpenter dead by suicide, Albert's co-worker and confidante Bettina, who has a yen for him dating back decades, a cryptic yuppie named Giggy who sleeps with Dita and, just to make the whole thing depressingly postmodern, the Narrator (clearly Oz himself, and gradually an active participant in the roundelay). The primary problem is that Oz chooses to tell this overstuffed tale as a series of vignettes, none more than four or five pages long, most much shorter, cross-cutting cinematically between Tel Aviv, Arad, Tibet, the past, the present, and even the future. As a result, few of the people acquire resonance, none of the situations are allowed to develop in a straight line, and, ultimately, the reader doesn't care what happens. There are moments of genuine power: the re-creation of Albert's awkward courting of Nadia has a poignancy underlined by our knowledge of her death; much of the material involving the Narrator is wittily self-deprecating. The verse passages, though, are almost embarrassing and the overall effect is surprisingly numbing.
A major disappointment from a major author.