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PRELIMINARIES by S. Yizhar Kirkus Star


by S. Yizhar & translated by Nicholas de Lange

Pub Date: May 1st, 2007
ISBN: 1-59264-190-3
Publisher: Toby Press

From the late Israeli author (1916–2006), a novel short on plot and character, long on the Awareness of Things; first published in 1992 and now translated into English.

Herein fall the shadows of Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) and Woolf (The Waves), for, like those masters, Yizhar (Midnight Convoy and Other Stories, 1969, etc.) is preoccupied with the way the mind works, the way it apprehends objects and experiences the world. Given such a preoccupation with subjective states, it’s not surprising that the novel subordinates setting and plot to the contours of consciousness, and yet, over time, we gradually become aware of characters and of the space they inhabit. The novel consists of a series of long interior monologues, beginning with a child’s earliest memories of his father, a farmer and “tiller of the soil,” plowing a field in Palestine around the year 1917. His meditations on connection to family and to the land are interrupted by a vicious attack by wasps and by his father’s subsequent panicked attempts to get him medical attention. This movement from philosophical introspection to personal crisis provides the story’s rhythm. We learn most of the story through a series of concatenated monologues in which we move from the child’s initial terror to his awakening (and, to him, bewildering) sexual awareness in early adolescence. A major theme involves the narrator’s growing sense of place and his concern with renewal of the land. Early in life, he learns about despair: “This land is given to desperate people . . . to truly desperate people. And they all compete to see who is the most truly desperate,” but his ultimate epiphany is the sweet awareness that “everything here is provisional . . . and you bathe your heart in the certainty that everything will turn out well.”

Truly a novel that will claim your heart.