PAST CONTINUOUS by Yaakov Shabtai


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In this 1977 Israeli novel, Shabtai's stream-of-consciousness approach becomes a stream of connection--as three intellectual, bohemian Tel Aviv friends all lose their vaunted freedom, with the nets of age and family-history contracting around them. Goldman is a depressive bachelor who expects relief when his cruel, unyielding father (he once hammered a cat to death) dies at last; instead, Goldman is merely sent deeper into depression. Caesar--divorced, his son ill with leukemia, his love-life an obsessive mess (three different women)--faces an existential/sexual crisis of major proportions. And Israel, who's living in Caesar's photographic studio, slowly realizes (too late) that he craves a relationship with Ella, a girl whom he has previously kept at a distance. Ebbing backward and forward from these tales of drifting men are episodes involving their interconnected families: accounts of old and new adulteries, ideological arguments, passions, griefs, angers. And Shabtai's long, clause-upon-clause sentences may not make for the easiest reading, tending (quite deliberately) toward a densely droning effect. Still, as a loop-like recitation, this novel is a sharply illuminating piece of sociology trained upon the educated, European-born classes of modern urban israel: the bed-hopping and sexual misery; the sheer intimacy of the society, where everyone knows everyone else's business. . . and failures. Demanding but very intriguing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society