ALL BACKS WERE TURNED by Marek Hlasko

ALL BACKS WERE TURNED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A somber but accomplished novel of pervasive brutality and violence, in a place as hopeless and hellish as Devil's Island, from the late Polish Beat-writer and dissident Hlasko (Killing the Second Dog, 1990). On parole, with a string of assault charges behind him, Sabra Dov Ben Dov and friend Israel take the only job they can find- -driving tourists around Elath in the Sinai desert, where the heat and dryness are so harsh that people begin to lose their hair and teeth within two years of being there. Convicts are routinely sent here to serve out the rest of their sentences, and the few tourists who come to see the historic sights don't stay long. Elath is also the home of Dov's younger brother, also called Dov, his wife Esther, and their father--an angry and malicious old man. Dov Ben Dov, a hot-tempered former war hero, brooding over his wife, who has left him for another man (whose child she is bearing), is tormented by dreams. His friend Israel cannot forgive his mother for making him leave college in Europe, and young brother Dov, a fisherman, is losing his business to a group of convicts who have better boats than he does. Older Dov, fearing that his own parole will be revoked, refuses to help his brother beat them up. An explosive situation--already exacerbated by heat, sexual desire, and a sense of futility--is finally ignited by the arrival of tourist Ursula, who falls in love with Israel. Deciding that he's trying to be like Dov, which is impossible, she takes certain steps that lead inevitably to what the local police describe as ``accidental mayhem'' and murder. A story as bleak and unrelenting as its setting, in which no one escapes the past or themselves. Nihilistic but compelling.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1991
ISBN: 0-943433-07-X
Page count: 118pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1991