DEATH AS A WAY OF LIFE: Israel Ten Years After Oslo

David Grossman, Author, Haim Watzman, Translator , trans. from the Hebrew by Haim Watzman. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $21 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-10211-1

By collecting his impressions from the last decade (originally published in Britain's Guardian), noted Israeli novelist Grossman creates something astonishing—a moving tale of, and comment on, modern Israeli culture and politics. Though there are no surprises in the chain of events, to watch an articulate and nuanced man live through the demise of the peace process is to experience it anew, in all its grisly and idiosyncratic power. Grossman watches the tentative steps toward peace, beginning in 1993, and what he hopes are the attempts of both sides to break free from being "hostages of their history and psychology." Then he looks on with increasing anxiety as it all unravels. Throughout, Grossman combines the lyrical touches he brings to his novels (The Smile of the Lamb, etc.) with a remarkably clear eye. "So many cherished things and private moments are lost to fear and violence," he writes. "So much creative power, so much imagination and thought, are directed today at destruction and death." Indeed, he mourns for losses that are as much philosophical as political, another reason this book has more depth than the typically two-dimensional newspaper op-ed. Grossman holds out for peace even when events suggest otherwise, maintaining criticism of both Israeli civilians and leaders for not trying to understand the Palestinian heart and mind. But these aren't simply the untempered cries of a dove. The author writes convincingly of the inner torment he feels after several attacks on innocent Israelis and candidly engages in self-questioning when dreams of peace start to float away. That gives him credibility, which, mixed with a heartfelt love of Israel and a courtly tone, lend the book an uncommon force. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/14/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-0-312-42323-0
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