THE ASCENT OF ELI ISRAEL: And Other Stories

Jon Papernick, Author . Arcade $23.95 (182p) ISBN 978-1-55970-619-3

Papernick was a reporter in Israel after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and he offers unique insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in these seven powerful stories, which approach violent coexistence from unusual angles. In "Lucky Eighteen," a cynical young photographer distributes an insulting poster of Mohammed and after a suicide bus bombing photographs the grisly remains. In "The King of the King of Falafel," the hilarity of a competition between falafel shops is muted when a rash action by the sons of the owner of the unsuccessful shop leads to an unexpected climax. In the eerie "An Unwelcome Guest," Yossi, a settler from America, awakes to discover a ghostly Arab, Ziad, who demands he play backgammon and is quickly joined by a horde of other Arabs. They protest that this was their land. Yossi replies that his people were there first. At the muezzin's cry the Arabs vanish, but one appears, bloodied, from the bedroom where Devorah, Yossi's pregnant wife, slept. The defining, ineradicable memory of the past persists in "For As Long As the Lamp Is Burning." As Avshalom looks at the stars, he whispers, "there are six million of them." Papernick's message of hope and disillusion mingle in the title story, in which the protagonist is stoned by a group of boys as he drives toward Jerusalem. Fearful that they might set his car on fire, he shoots. One boy is killed. He puts the body, similar to that of his own son, in his trunk and muses, "God teaches you hard." It is Papernick's sense of the surreal, his dark humor and his consciousness of the deep roots of Jewish and Muslim culture that distinguish this collection. (July)

Forecast:Booksellers can recommend The Ascent of Eli Israel to readers eager to get behind the headlines and into the collective Israeli-Palestinian psyche.

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-1-55970-683-4
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