cover image The Retrospective

The Retrospective

A.B. Yehoshua, trans. from the Hebrew by Stuart Schoffman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-547-49696-2

In Yehoshua’s thoughtful but plodding new novel (after Friendly Fire), elderly Israeli director Yair Moses is a placeholder for the prolific author in a narrative that examines a life’s work. The book begins with a retrospective of Moses’s early films that forces him to relive his collaboration with screenwriter Shaul Trigano. A hotel room painting reminds Yair of a scene from their final collaboration, in which a nursing mother was to breastfeed a beggar. Ruth, the film’s star and Shaul’s soul mate, refused to play the scene, and Moses backed her decision, ending his collaboration with Shaul, as well as Shaul’s relationship with Ruth, who would become Yair’s occasional lover. She attends the retrospective with him, but their relationship is difficult, and watching old work forces the past to the fore. In the book’s second part, Yair revisits the locations of those early films and concern over Ruth’s health causes him to seek out Shaul. Their reunion sends Yair on a surreal penitential mission. In interviews, Yehoshua has mentioned Faulkner as an influence, and it shows. Some sentences are daunting in length and indicate the self-indulgence of the work as a whole. The author’s insights into realism and surrealism, religiousness and secularism, and the creative process deserve greater exploration. Agent: Marc Koralnik, the Liepman Agency (Switzerland). (Mar. 5)