A first novel that examines personal grief and political grievances in contemporary Israel.
Avi Goldberg is in prison, refusing to do his tour in the Israeli Defense Force reserves (he has already completed his active duty). Avi’s father, Daniel, is a kibbutznik, a believer in the communitarian ideals associated with the founding of the Israeli state. While Avi is the protagonist, writing all night in his cell about his dead Israeli-Arab friend Saleem and his family, Daniel’s articulate, dry voice is heard in letters to Avi’s mother, Sareet. Sareet left the family when Avi was a child and moved to the Netherlands. The perspective shifts, recording the loss of Saleem’s ancestral home and the curious position Saleem found himself occupying when he opted to serve in the IDF. To his family, this decision is at best an abdication and at worst a betrayal. Along with multiple voices and perspectives, there are numerous flashbacks. The overall effect is of fragmentation—of lives, of the past. Even the future appears to be in tatters, the characters alternately desperate and fatalistic. When Avi is victimized, he appears unwilling to exact vengeance. While Daniel records Avi’s injuries in almost clinical detail, he has nothing to say about the environment that made such injuries routine. Deeply attuned to personal feelings, he is insulated from the climate of grief and resentment. In prison, Avi receives regular visits from Saleem’s widow. The grasping form of Sahar, Saleem's widow, and the tragic David, another prisoner and a conscientious objector, are haunting figures. David is as lost as everyone else, but he is lost to his convictions, and this seems almost heroic in this arid miasma.
An impressive debut.