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Wounded in the head while serving as a sergeant in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in North Africa during World War II, Heinrich Reinhold, a German-born Jerusalemite, is tended to by Tamara Koren, the wife of a fellow soldier. And soon Tamara becomes not only Heinrich's lover but also his supplier of angst and tsuris. The problem is not their sexual relationship, which is torrid. The problem is that Tamara is mercurial, given to odd duplicities on an elemental level that come to mirror Reinhold's own more complex duplicities: he becomes an Irgun member yet also a British agent during the War of Independence; then he becomes a gun runner and later, finally--under the name ""Joseph Orwell""--he's a fabulously wealthy American industrialist and supporter (with arms and money) of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. And through all these changes of identity, there is always his ever-present associate--Princess Polina, a.k.a. Tamara. . . . Shahar constitutes his story densely; there are subtle symbols throughout--mirrors, puppets, sovereigns (coins). But from the very beginning his time scheme and plot strands are on the fritz: readers will find it difficult, all the way through, to know what is happening to whom and when. So, though there is some very fine writing here--battle scenes of Israeli-Egyptian tank warfare are especially good, as is a caustic section in which an American media star visits the desert-bound Israeli troops--this is ultimately too much of a mishmash, tantalizingly interesting material defeated by an aggressively disjointed presentation that renders much of it nearly unintelligible.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1980
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich