Falling out of time by David Grossman

Falling out of time by David Grossman

Hebrew Fiction

Original title –נופל מחוץ לזמן 

Translator Jessica Cohen

Source – Library

 

 

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong
And carry on,
‘Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven.

I was struck by this song the first time I heard it the same way I was with this book Eric clapton’s Tears in Heaven is also about the loss of a son

I’ve review a book by David Grossman before his wonderful book from a few years ago To the end of the land , which I really enjoyed so when I saw he had a new book out and it had made a few end of year lists including Boyd Tonkin (usually an early sign for the IFFP prize ) .I decide it was time to read a book by him again .Since I last reviewed him , he has been involved in protests about the further settlements in Israeli where he was actually beaten by the police .He lost his own son in 2008 how like most Israelis was serving his military service and was killed in the line of action at just 20 ! .Like the earlier book this one looks at the Grief ,but in a different way .

Woman :

The earth

Gaped open.

gulped us

and disgorged

Don’t go back

There , do not go ,

not even one step

out of the light

Man :

I could not , I dared not

look into your eye,

that eye of

madness ,

into your noneness

a the start when he mentions going home .

Falling into time is one of those books that is hard to pigeonhole in many ways as it is rather like a play with characters names and what they said , but then like a poem with rhyme and rhythm to the words spoke by each of the characters , then there is a story in their as well .The book follows a man and woman as the walk to the place where their son died , as they go along they gather up more people each telling of their own losses along the way almost like a chorus building a nation of stories of sons and children lost as the town they live in comes together in some sort of collective grief as the town all starts to walk along the man and woman .

Walkers :

But they are so

alive ! they flicker

with flash of smiles

with questioning and sorrow ,

as if those longing , desperate faces

wish to try out

every last expression

one more time,

to thereby taste

the potency

of plundered feelings ,

The collective walkers in the story talking as one about the dead .

Now I said hard to place this book the nearest two books to it I can think of are under Milkwood , which is shares a spoken feel  to the words  , this book is one that probably work  best if read a loud to get the full power of Grossman’s prose .The other book I was reminded of was Mr Darwin’s garden that came out a couple of years ago from Peirene press anoother book of voices again set in a small town like this book and like this it also built as the book went along .But unlike them there is little about the place they are in or where they are this is a book about grieving for a son a daughter a bother husband wife etc .Another feeling is almost the words go back to be almost like the words we all know from prayers or bibles with a feeling of repetition to hammer the words and their meaning home to use as the reader  .Heartfelt is what I came away with from the book a real feel of a writer pouring out on the page what he must have felt be feeling since the loss of his own son .But what he has also done with the lack of place and time has turned the grieving into universal grieving so the parents could even be Arab ! .

have you a favourite read about Grief and Death ?

 

 

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Exposure

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Israeli fiction

Original Title – גוף שני יחיד

Translator – Mitch Ginsburg

Source – Personnel copy brought on kindle

 

Sayed Kashua is a well-known figure in Israeli ,he publishes a regular column in an Israeli newspaper .He is also the writer behind the hit comedy show Arab Labour which has been a runaway success in Israel .Exposure is his fourth book .I’ve found a clip of the title actually full episodes are available on you tube it is a sitcom following Arabs and Israelis living together .

He looked at his watch and saw that the store would be closing in ten minutes. He already knew which book he was going to buy: he had seen it reviewed in that week’s

paper, had spotted it on the shelf, and knew that after a quick walk through the classics he would return to it. As he browsed, The Kreutzer Sonata caught his eye and he remembered that his wife had asked him once, as the resident expert on books, whether he’d ever read the novella by Tolstoy. The lawyer had been surprised by her sudden interest in books and she explained that The Kreutzer Sonata came up in class whenever her professor discussed Freud. He pulled the book off the shelf and walked over to the new-books section, where he picked up Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel. “I’d like this one gift wrapped, please,” he said, handing Meirav the used copy of The Kreutzer Sonata, adding, “my wife’s studying psychology and she’s been nagging me forever to get her this book.”

The lawyer buys the book in question .

Well the show is a good starting point for the book although the book isn’t comic ,but touches a lot of the same ground and the is identity in Israeli from both side Arab and Jewish .The book is formed of two stories that unfold side by side the first is the story of an Arab lawyer .but he is a high-flying lawyer trying to escape from his Arab background and get accepted in the mainstream Jewish life as a lawyer . The lawyer  by chance finds a copy of Kreutzer  sonata  by Tolstoy a book that his wife recommend to him  to read in this second-hand book he discovers a letter in Arabic that appears to have been written by her wife to the books previous owner of the book. the previous Yonatan is the link to the second story ,but back to the first he of course now want s to find out from his wife who this was and why she wrote the letter .The second story is about a young Arab man Amir  struggling to get work ,then finds himself working as a carer at night looking after a young Israeli who is called Yonatan ,Amir starts to look into this young man’s life his likes and dislikes .Takes things like his camera and then decides he could become Yonatan ,so is he the one in the first story ?

Well the book is as Tony put it is very easy read and it is but it tackles a lot of subjects close to the heart of Israeli and to some one like Sayed as he is an Arab Israeli that is their place in modern Israeli ? How close can they come to be a full part of Israeli life without taking Amir’s path and stealing an identity or the Lawyer (we never get told his name )  where he has really sold his soul to be where he was and of course the first story on its line of marital betrayal  , jealousy could be a spin on the Tolstoy story which Thou I’ve not read it is about a marriage ,a wife’s betrayal and the husband in that book kills his wife .(an  aside to this is I had said I will get this book by Tolstoy next time I see it and low and behold last week I brought a second-hand copy a little bit of a deja vu moment .) .I feel this is very much an IFFP book as it tackles issues but also is one that serves well as a book group book with many points to dive off from about it .This was the third book by Kashua to be translated to English another book apart from this one had been on the longlist for the IFFP .

Have you read him

 

Rhyming life and death by Amos Oz

Rhyming life and death Amos Oz

Rhyming life and death by Amos Oz

Hebrew Literature

Hebrew  title חרוזי החיים והמוות (רומן

Translator – Nicholas De Lange

Source – library

Well I ve read a number of books over the years by Amos Oz I have one under review here ,the Iffp book from 2012 scenes from a village life  its hard to sum up Amos Oz he is probably the best know Hebrew writer of his generation he has won a number of large national and international awards ,his name is frequently mentioned as a future Nobel literature prize winner .he has written 27 plus books in his time covering both fiction and Non fiction .His book have been translated into 36 languages .

These are the most commonly asked questions . Why do you write ? Why do you write the way you do ? are you trying to influence your readers ,and if so how ? what role do your books play ? do you constantly cross out and correct or do you write straight out of your head ?

The opening lines the writer talks about what he may be asked tonight I was reminded of the Peter Kay line about talking to taxi drivers and what we say .Been busy etc .

Well Rhyming life and death is set on one evening in the mid eighties in Tel Aviv ,we meet a writer ,we are never told his name .But it is his story an evening in his life we follow him from a literary event ,and earlier before the event in a  cafe and then to wandering in  the night .The story drifts from the actual events of the evening to the imagination of the writer as he tells himself tales from the world around him  .As we see him answering mundane questions and deeper questions in between the questions he images little stories for the people in the crowd .Then to a cafe where he starts imaging and giving a name to a waitress that is serving him ,he calls her Ricky and sketches a life for her  with himself .He also  turns two gents on another table in the cafe , into a pair of henchmen working for a gangster .These flights of fantasy he has a carefree and full of that middle age  groaning for what life could have been .

While he caresses Rochele he closes his eyes tight and tries to recover lost ground by visualising the outline of Ricky’s underwear , the asymmetric line of her knickers that was visible through her short skirt and caused him so much excitement earlier in the evening ,before the literary event .

The writers thoughts can be racey at times .

I was reminded at times when I read this book  of  the world of Dennis Potters works particularly the singing detective the Lead character is very like the lead character in the singing detective is also a writer and  a daydream .It’s easy to see the writer as Oz himself he was in his mid forties when the book is set .The beauty of Oz is his ability to change styles between books and still keep the reader its easy to write similar books and live in a comfort zone as a writer but Oz never does .I think Oz answers the question Why do you write that is mention on the first page of the book by showing how his imagination works using the unnamed writer as how he maybe uses his skills to construct stories out of the every day .Also I was made to think if a writer at an event looks out and writes tales about the people in the crowd ,Have I ever been noted and written or has any of us ? A short book from Oz but a highly enjoyable one .

Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz

Scenes from Village life by Amos Oz

Hebrew Literature

Translator Nicholas De Lange

So I move on to the other novel by a hebrew writer ,Unlike Aharon Applefeld I have read a couple of Amos Oz’s books and had one on the tbr pile so was pleased when this was on the list to read .Amos Oz is probably the best known modern hebrew writer his best known book being his 2003 work a tale of love and Darkness ,a novel from his own experiences that has been translated in 23 plus languages including Arabic  .He is a professor of literature and he has also been a journalist and a vocal speaker in political matters and a supporter of the two state solution to Israelis current problems .He has won numerous awards over the last thirty years most notable the Goethe prize  in Germany .

So scenes from village life ,when I read the blurb about this book I wished I d followed through my half heart village challenge as it turns out this book would have been perfect for that challenge as it is set in a village (fictional it seems ,but I feel Oz knows places like this )  but has the feel of any village even thou like a lot of books set in village like this is about so much more .We meet an Old man who has lived in the village since it was formed after Israeli state was formed  and is our guide to the village he has lived in and seen change .We find out about this village in a series of eight chapters ,which you could say are almost little stories, but all narrated by the old man so from his daughter Rachel  who is the local school teacher ,this is the longest story in the collection they argue and when the old man say ,there is digging but this isn’t happening and is just in the old mans head and almost become a metaphor for the old mans past he was a politician and the Rachel’s student a  young arab man hears it as well as  the old man hears the sound . Maybe this is a sign of the shift thoughts in some in Israeli society like Oz’s himself .Other stories involve visiting singing neighbours ,the after math of the Holocaust ,a lonely boy falls for the librarian an older women ,then a rather quirky final chapter /story that I ll leave you too find .

They are digging ,I tell you !It starts an hour or two after midnight ,all sorts of tapping and scraping sounds .You must be sleeping the sleep of the just if you don’t hear it .You always were a heavy sleeper .What are they digging for ,in cellar or under the foundations ? Oil ? Gold? buried treasure ?

the old man wonder who’s digging as his daughter denies it is happening .

I said midway through this book on twitter I was loving it and I did right to the end it was one of those book I could happily read as much again. Oz’ village was so real it drew you in ,but also on another level was surreal  as there is no animals and a lot of the young people had moved away, so it is a dying village .I do wonder how much of this is Oz’s comment on the current state of affairs in the country as a whole maybe like the village they need some new life or the may die off .I felt the old man could have almost been one of the character from S Yizhars books about  the forming of israeli as a nation one of the men that fought then governed the country and now seeing what went wrong .I did have a feeling I read something similar to this but not set in Israeli but there been lot of interlocking story books recently and this is among the best ones I’ve read ,Nicholas De lang the well-known Hebrew translator and Professor of hebrew and Jewish studies at Cambridge has translated Oz and also S Yizhar (who’s book I suggest you read before or along side this one as they seem to connect on some level )

Have you read Amos Oz ?

 

Blooms of darkness by Aharon Appelfeld

Blooms of darkness by Aharon Appelfeld

Hebrew Literature

Translator Jeffery M Green

I just don’t know what has taken me so long to get to one of his books I pleased The IFFP longlist gave me the nudge to try him Aharon Apppelfeld is an Israeli writer ,he was born in Romania and spent time in the concentration camp in Romania with his father which he never saw again after they arrive ,he then moved to Palestine after the world war two  was over and then to the state of Israeli when it was founded .He is well-known for using his war experiences as a diving board to explore the holocaust and not maybe his own tale  but the effect of the holocaust and afterwards how the people involved returned to normal life .He is also a great admired in the Jewish writing community ,the writer Philip Roth used him as a character in one of his novels and said of him he is a displaced writer writing displaced fiction .

So we get to the book , blooms of darkness and it is a story set in Poland in world war two just as the Nazis invade ,it’s the  story of two souls that maybe for the wrong reason find solace and love in one another .The first is  a young boy Hugo,he is thoughtful boy more worried about his parents than himself . He is Jewish and is brought by his parents to be hidden in the home of Mariana .Now we come to Mariana is a prostitute. She is a women that hates her life and the fact that she is given the chance to help this young boy is a bright light in her dark world .So Hugo arrives and find himself in a pink girly room that of Marianne ,in the times when no ones about he comes out into the room but at other times when she ha to service the german soldiers he has to stop in a dark closet as he hers the sounds outside and how badly treated Mariana is  by the soldiers as they abuse her  .He just has to sit there and she his savour take this .This maybe is what makes the second part of the book his feelings of caring

For a long time Hugo stands still ,wondering about the nature of this Roomy place.Finally he sums it up for himself :it’s not a beauty Parlour .There isn’t a broad bed in the middle of a beauty Parlour .

Meanwhile ,Marianna comes back with a tray of little sandwiches and says ,”this is for you .Sit in the armchair and eat as much as you want ”

Young Hugo arrives at the brothel to be put in the care of Mariana .

As the war moves on Hugo is a boy who quickly grows to the edge of  manhood Mariana when she leaves him in another women’s care at the brothel .He has to escapes capture,finds Mariana and comes  to rescue her from the bottle  as she has started drinking heavily .I know some of the judges have struggle with the dynamics of this relationship but I feel it is natural you spend time with someone in such circumstances it ends people care and Hugo is such a gentle chap and Mariana is the classic tart with a heart that needs a knight in shining armour and that turns out in the end to be Hugo.  A form of Stockholm syndrome (not Helsinki as some people say ).This is a new take on a holocaust story A boy hidden I m reminded a bit of the german film Europa Europe the story of a boy who spent the war pretending to be german not Jewish and had relationships along the way ,this is part love story ,part coming of age .Like Anne franks diary it shows that love can be a strong tie what ever the circumstance   .Aharon has shown why he considered one of the foremost Hebrew writers .Jeffrey M green translated it he has a number of major Hebrew writers you can see here .

Have you read Appelfeld  ?

What’s your favourite Hebrew writer ?

 

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