Judas by Amos Oz

 

Judas by Amos Oz

Israeli fiction

Original title – שיצא לאור ב

Translator Nicholas De Lange

Source – Personnel copy

I’m back and reviewing the first of the books I have been reading for the Man booker longlist I hope over the next few week or so to get most if not all the books reviewed before the shortlist although this year we will announce ours a little later as this year we have all had more books to read than other years . First up is the second Israeli book on the longlist I had reviewed the first by David Grossman  before the longlist was announced . This is a book by one of my favourite writers and one I had purchased before longlist as I have reviewed Amos Oz twice on the blog and both were translated by Nicholas De Lange who in fact strangely messaged the blog about the book Days of Ziklag which forms a small part of this novel as one of the main characters .

A woman of around forty-five, she held herself erect and moved around the room as if well aware of her feminine power. She was wearing a plain light coloured dress that reached her ankles and a simple red sweater. Her long dark flowed softly down on one side of her neck to land on the mound of her left breast .Beneath the hair nodded a pair of large wooden earings .Her clothes hugged her body

Atalia captures the young mans eye at first sight when he comes for the job with Wald

Shumel is a young man who is trying to finish his degree but unable to do so quits and just as he is about to leave sses a job for a student on a board at the university , he applies for this job which is to take note and write down and be a partner in speaking to an old man Gershom Wald , he starts talking with the young man about his life and his own life , he sparks a light in the boy who had gone out and the is the story of Judas what was his person , a difficult story and the way history has viewed him this is done through a number of books that he has read Oz lists the books in his notes about the book. The book is set in the sixties and adding to Shumel life at the house is the third member of the household Atalia she is the former daughter in law of his son who cares for the older man  , but capture the eye of the younger man she is 45 , but looks younger and her father was also connected to the begining of the state , which is a main thread in the book as we see how the old man admired David Ben -Gurion  calling him the most exalted person of the war and even now , meanwhile Atalia whose   late father was one of the few to question the tactics of the time by David Ben-Gurion as he was a the heart of the regime at that time  , this time and the outcome of the decisions these men made is  strangely is also the time that is covered by Days of Ziklag which follows one of the army groups on the ground . as the young man gets closer to the older woman .

Gershom Wald was convinced that Nestor never existed and that there had never been any converted preist, but that all these foul texts were written by narrow indeed little Jews because they were afraid of the attractive power of christianity and trued to exploit the protection of Muslim rule by attacking the figure of Jesus while sheltering safely beneath the cloak of Muhammad

Shummel disagreed:,” but the Polemic of nestor the priest shows a certain acquaintance with the world of christianity , a knowledge of the gospels , familiarity with christian theology

Wald just loves to argue it is what keeps him going so he will always take the opposite side .

This book is all about how the man Judas is seen , but not just him anyone that does what he did and could be viewed one way or another , even who was Jesus a christian or a Jews ! , this is a really interesting field and one that the two men discuss as the older man tries to spark the interest lost in the younger man also whilst Shumel falls for the older man ex daughter in Law . As ever the translation by Nicholas De lange is very readable and he had said he would love to translate the epic days of ziklag one of the best Hebrew novels  of all time , we got the first book by its writer S yizhar. This is a thought provoking book and for me one of the best of the list I have read so far .

 

A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman

A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman

Israeli fiction

Original title – סוס אחד נכנס לְבָּר

Translator – Jessica Cohen

Source – personnel copy

I have been a fan of David Grossman for a while now and have reviewed his books twice before on the blog. Grossman has seen his books translated into more than 30 languages and has won many lit and other prizes .he has published over twenty novels and children’s books as well as plays and this is his latest book to be translated into english and like the previous two I have reviewed it is again translated by Jessica Cohen

“I want you to come to my show “he said on the phone after finally breaking pleasant recollections from our twice weekly walks from Bayit Va’gan to the bus that took me home to Talpiot. He talked about those walks with great enthusiasm; “It was a real friendship we started there; he said a couple of times and giggled with bemused happiness. We’d walk and talk for ages. Walkie talkie friendship; he continued, reminiscing in great detail, as though that brief friendship was the best thing that had ever happened to him

A chance call and Avishai get a call to see the show that particular night .

does what it says in the title in a way it is a story of a a joke and a comedian. We meet Dovaleh g an aging comedian , but in the audience are two of his dearest friends are in the audience this is a man setting his life in front of his audience the story of his life in a stand up show and how they end up here and how they are able to take Dovaleh show that is bad not just bad  it’s offence at times , our narrator one of the two friend there a retired judge wonders where the night is going and why his friend is doing this whince at the lines and what has the small woman he keeps drawing into his story and of friendship truth and having to make decisions that have a lasting effect on all those around you this is more than a man on stage in crisis this is a story that can face all making decisions at times .

“These kind of things are done quietly and quickly in our system.Three or four months and the whole hing was over” I laughed “You see, sometimes the wheels of justice do turn quickly.”

He didn’t respond. I was a little disappointed at my inability to make a comedian laugh.

“Every time I saw your name somewhere; he said “I would remember how we were, and I was interested in what you were doing,where you were. I wondered if you even remembered me. I watched you climb he ladder and I was really happy for you honestly ”

The two share banter but it is a deep cut and past he has brought him here to remember !

As ever Grossman is a writer of the most powerful of human feeling and is maybe using the stand up as a character to look back on a life maybe not his but some one of his generation there is five years between him and the comedians age. This is one of those books that need time to dissect it is full of bad jokes and bad feelings as the night turns nasty but he is scratching the surface of real life and how many people say one thing and think another ! A book about deep wounds and also maybe about what happens when pain is buried as ever Grossman is a writer of true brilliance not an easy read but a lasting read.

Have you read Grossman ?

 

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 .

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