CAFE NEVO by Barbara Rogan


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A warm, funny, near-magical novel about a dingy little cafe in Tel Aviv; from the author of Changing States (1981). The Cafe Nero (named for the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land) is a Tel Aviv fixture and has been since shortly after WW II, when its owner Emmanuel Sternholz arrived, having lost his wife and son in the death camps in Eastern Europe. At the age of 73, Sternholz (who poses as a simple waiter) rules with an iron hand, serving only those be wants to serve and bestowing advice and crotchety love on his favorites. Among them are Arik Eshel, the troubled son of an Israeli politician--Arik has left the army in protest over the Lebanon invasion--and Peter Caspi and his wife, Verad. Peter is an adulterous novelist; Verad is a columnist who is having an affair with an Arab poet (a rival of Peter's) to get back at him. But Sternholz's hands-down favorite customer is the beautiful young Sarita Blume, a painter whom he has commissioned to do a mural depicting a typical day in the life of the Nevo. Sarita is the daughter of actress Yael Blume, an Israeli patriot who fought with Sternholz against the British and Arabs (and with whom he was secretly in love) and who died onstage during a Syrian missile attack. Sarita has a mystical gift for seeing into the past--her paintings depict not only what is there, but was--and her mural, when finished, is a brilliant coupling of Israel's past and present. In the end, she and Arik (who has decided to go into politics) fall in love, but not before grave events--political, of course--befall the Cafe Nevo. with lives lost and others spared. The Nevo is not only a microcosm of modern Israel, but a hotbed of sex, gossip, and wonderful conversation. The combination makes for an inspired, passionate work of fiction.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum