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LOVE LIFE by Zeruya Shalev


by Zeruya Shalev & translated by Dalya Bilu

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8021-1655-8
Publisher: Grove

A strange and somewhat strained tale of an extramarital affair: poet Shalev’s first fiction and a huge success in her native


Narrator Ya'arah is a graduate student living in Jerusalem with her pleasant if unexciting husband when she meets Aryeh,

her father's best friend, a jaded but attractively bearish man who immediately both repels and attracts her. With surprising rapidity

(surprising even to her), she falls into an on-and-off affair with him, depicted in increasingly explicit terms, gradually undermining

not only her marriage but her already shaky academic career as well. Things come to a messy peak when his wife dies and her

husband plans to take her on a long-deferred honeymoon, at which point she goes to the older man to comfort him, knowing that

this can only precipitate an irreparable breach in her marriage. Shalev tells this somewhat banal story in a torrential first-person

stream-of-consciousness narration. The tone—a tumbling welter of clauses strung together into lengthy run-on sentences—reflects

the impulsive, willful mind of the narrator, but the effect on the reader quickly becomes numbing. And the pace of the story is

often blunted by lengthy, uninspired philosophical discussions. On the other hand, its complex architecture, built on a series of

slowly disclosed revelations of the past connections between her parents and her lover, provides a certain fascinating force.

Regrettably, much of that force is vitiated by the narrative voice, which is petulant, self-involved, self-dramatizing, and

emotionally disproportionate to many of the quotidian events driving the plot. Still, Bilu's translation is quite good, which may

work to the book's advantage.

Oddly unpleasant and yet somehow riveting.