cover image Open Heart

Open Heart

Abraham B. Yehoshua. Doubleday Books, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-26793-9

The irrational, untamable power of love becomes almost palpable in Israeli novelist Yehoshua's intense novel of forbidden passion, obsession and spiritual yearning. Its introspective, ironic narrator, Benjamin Rubin (Benjy), an internist in surgery at a Tel Aviv hospital, is asked by the hospital director, Dr. Lazar, to accompany him to a remote town in India where Lazar's college-dropout daughter, Einat, is suffering from acute hepatitis and urgently needs medical care. Benjy, 29, falls madly in love--not with Einat, whose life he saves, but with Dori, Lazar's matronly, spoiled, ordinary, 50-ish wife, whom he beds once. When she rejects his passion as impossible and silly, Benjy hastily marries hippie-like, kibbutz-raised Michaela, who espouses Hindu religious concepts and works with the ""sidewalk doctors"" of Calcutta. They have a daughter, Shivi, but, despite their sexual rapport and mutual affection, theirs is not a marriage of love. When Lazar requires open-heart surgery, Benjy, who takes part in the operation, must ask himself whether he truly wants to save the man or whether he wishes Lazar dead so that he can pursue his impossible love for Dori. At times, Benjy's minute self-analysis is wearying, and it's tempting to dismiss his problems as a passing Oedipal fixation. Mostly, however, Yehoshua (Mr. Mani) mingles fascinating medical detail with the story of one man seeking to open his own heart to life's possibilities, including pain. Author tour. (May)