Literature and War: Conversations with Israeli and Palestinian Writers
Runo Isaksen. Olive Branch Press, $18 (222pp) ISBN 978-1-56656-730-5
In 15 discussions with acclaimed Israeli and Palestinian writers, Norwegian novelist Isaksen looks at the intersection of art and armed conflict in the Middle East to determine whether literature can play a role in helping one side to see the other. In narrative interviews with writers including David Grossman (The Yellow Wind), Amos Oz (perhaps Israel's most famous), Meir Shalev, Mahmoud Shuqair and Liana Badr, Isaksen examines the obligation artists feel (or don't feel) to help bring peace to the region, the differences between being an Israeli and being a Jew, the likelihood of true democracy in Israel, the meaning of exile in the minds of Palestinians and other weighty topics. The result is a number of sharp insights into the process, promise and limits of art in the face of war; according to Oz, ""the conflict is always in the background, but never in the foreground. I don't write to compete with the headlines."" A founding member of Israel's Peace Now movement in 1977, Isaksen has been a political player for decades, giving him a firm grounding in the conflict and its literary legacy. This inquisitive guide illuminates the region in a fresh way, giving those already interested a new perspective and drawing in readers who might otherwise eschew modern Middle East history.
Reviewed on: 10/27/2008