One Facing Us

Ronit Matalon, Author, Marsha Weinstein, Translator
Ronit Matalon, Author, Marsha Weinstein, Translator Metropolitan Books $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4880-3
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Illustrated with 17 snapshots from an imaginary photo album, the English-language debut from Israeli writer Matalon is a kaleidoscopic family saga chronicling the disintegration of an Egyptian-Jewish clan as, after WWII, its members fan out from Cairo to Israel, New York and Africa. Their wildly divergent fates are filtered through the ironic eye of troubled 17-year-old Esther, dispatched from Tel Aviv by her headstrong mother, In s, and her cynical grandmother, Nona Fortuna, to Cameroon, where her maternal Uncle Jacques Sicourelle, a stoic factory owner, and her parsimonious French Aunt Marie-Ange may be plotting to marry her off to Marie-Ange's sullen son from a previous marriage. Colorful shards of Matalon's quirky, sharply observed mosaic include Esther's peripatetic, pan-Arabist father, Robert, who dabbles in Israeli leftist politics and explores central Africa; her maternal uncle Moise, a Zionist who leaves Egypt in the late 1940s to found a kibbutz in Palestine; his brother Edouard, tyrannical head of Israel's secret service interrogation team in Gaza, and Robert's sister Nadine, a suicidal New York City librarian and Emily Dickinson scholar. Matalon's subtle decoding of her photomontage adds a postmodernist flavor to this study of cultural displacement, which sensitively probes postcolonial Africa's plight as well as the clash between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews in Israel. (June)
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