The Smile of the Lamb

David Grossman, Author, Betsy Rosenberg, Translator
David Grossman, Author, Betsy Rosenberg, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $19.95 (325p) ISBN 978-0-374-26639-4
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Readers of the complex and challenging See Under: Love or the highly praised nonfiction The Yellow Wind know Israeli writer Grossman as a virtuosic chronicler of his country's psychic health and conscience. This provocative work, his first novel, predates Love and is written in a more accessible style. Four narrative voices, each deeply individualized, relate the events of one fateful day, with flashbacks to the past. Uri Ladiano is an Israeli of Iraqi descent, an outsider. Uri's innocent smile symbolizes his idealistic view of human nature and of Israel's responsibility to the Arabs living in the occupied West Bank. The old Arab, Khilmi, is an outsider, too; deformed, considered crazy, he has raised a retarded boy who was exploited by El Fatah and killed by Israeli soldiers. The cynical military commander, Katzman, is a Holocaust survivor incapable of love; his is the only voice not directly heard but transmitted through third-person narration. The fourth voice belongs to Shosh Avidan, a highly intellectual psychologist, Uri's wife and Katzman's clandestine lover, who has two soul-destroying secrets, one about her father and the other involving the death of one of her patients. Grossman sets a critical juncture of these characters' personal lives against the moral and ethical corrosion of the Israeli occupation. Wrenching scenes give empathetic consideration to the feelings of both Arabs and Israelis in the pre-intifada environment as Grossman searchingly describes the shame and guilt that a distortion of justice brings to a civilized society. This is an unforgettable work by an acutely sensitive observer and a master of his craft. (Jan.)
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