A provocative antiwar novel by one of Israel’s best-known writers (See Under: Love, 1989, etc.).
If Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a post-apocalyptic journey across a ruined landscape, Grossman’s latest describes a walkabout across forbidding country that is ever in danger of being consumed by war. Ora and Avram meet in a hospital at the time of the Six-Day War, speaking back and forth across fever dreams: “We’re the last ones left from the plague,” says Ora, still not sure why sirens and artillery shells are the music of their night. Avram disappears into the maw of another war, when, captured and tortured, he returns unable to connect with the past and the people he has known and loved; Ora, for her part, marries a mutual friend and has a son, Ofer, who, decades later, is called up to serve in yet another war. Unable to bear the thought of losing her boy to the unending conflict—a loss that Grossman himself suffered as he was writing the book—Ora leaves home, locates Avram in his Galilean hermitage, and sets out on a journey (“which she was still calling a hike,” at least at the beginning) crisscrossing Israel with two purposes in mind: to weave a protective armor of words around Ofer, and to keep herself one step ahead of the soldiers who inevitably will come to her door to announce that he has died. Grossman’s characters define the limits of human endurance and of language. Through conversation that takes them across generations and ethnicities, each discovers something about the other, and each, it seems, becomes less inclined to accept the old way of accomplishing aims through violence and terror, through “the many and varied dangers from which they could no longer protect their sons.”
A classic, full of sharp descriptions of life in Palestine and Israel today, urgent in its insistence that peace can come through sharing stories and the time required to tell them.