cover image More than I Love my Life

More than I Love my Life

David Grossman, trans. from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. Knopf, $26.95 (288) ISBN 978-0-593-31891-1

Grossman’s tender and disquieting latest (after A Horse Walks into a Bar) looks at three generations of women whose bonds are fissured by histories of restlessness and war. Gili, an aspiring filmmaker, has never forgiven her mother, Nina, for leaving her and her father when Gili was a toddler. Nina was raised in Yugoslavia and hasn’t recovered from her own sense of abandonment after her mother, Vera, an anti-Nazi partisan, was held in a prison camp for refusing to renounce communism. Vera, who’s both Gili’s biological grandmother and the stepmother of Gili’s father, Rafael, is the family’s center. When Nina visits for Vera’s 90th birthday party, she asks filmmaker Rafael to make a documentary for the family about their relationship; ultimately, Gili, who once worked as Rafael’s assistant, insists on having the final edit both out of a desire for creative fulfillment and to make sure they get the project right. The four talk, film, and revisit the dilapidated island prison, and their relationships shift as they grapple with Vera’s and Nina’s past. Grossman shines a light on the victims of the violent split between Tito and Stalin, as well as on the stories people tell themselves to explain, survive, and forgive. And in Vera, who is nimble and sharp at 90, endlessly self-mythologizing, and possessed of a broken Hebrew that Cohen renders into idiosyncratic broken English, the author has created an unforgettable character. This adds another remarkable achievement to Grossman’s long list. (Aug.)