Past Perfect

Yaakov Shabtai, Author Viking Books $18.95 (291p) ISBN 978-0-670-81308-7
Employing his characteristic, inventive stream-of-consciousness style, Israeli novelist Shabtai (Past Continuous once again deftly scrutinizes the mystery of life's meaning. If the narrative is repetitious and relentless, so are the manifestations of the protagonist's psychic malady: ""At the age of 42, shortly after Sukkoth, Meir was gripped by the fear of death . . . a slight, almost imperceptible ache stirring somewhere in the innermost tissues of his body, and then spreading and thickening until it was a canker gnawing at him without respite.'' A perspicacious master at depicting angst and anomie, Shabtai chronicles Meir's despair over his wife's unfaithfulness, panic over the diagnosis of his high blood pressure and depression over his mother's death and the Begin government (Meir may be a paradigm of a disillusioned Israeli society approaching middle age). Mired in a regrettable past and doomed future, Meir is an impotent observer of, not active participant in, life's immediate blessings, as epitomized by a trip to Europe that is marred by fear and disorientation. He dies, but the compelling novel ends on a surprising note of rebirth. This bittersweet work is Shabtai's last; he succumbed to a heart attack in 1981 at the age of 47. (August 14)
Reviewed on: 08/04/1987
Release date: 08/01/1987
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