cover image Six Israeli Novellas

Six Israeli Novellas

. David R. Godine Publisher, $27.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-56792-091-8

The six novellas of this anthology represent Israeli fiction of the '60s, '70s and '80s in terms as complex and variegated as Israel's political and social terrain continues to be. Seeking to purge himself of guilt, the relentlessly itinerant Chohovsky of Aharon Appelfeld's modern myth ""In the Isles of St. George"" exiles himself to an uninhabited island south of Italy. Chohovsky, who has changed his name numerous times to dodge the authorities and duck the consequences of his shady business dealings, has a series of dreams about his youth in Poland, his family, wiped out by the Holocaust, his years of wandering as a fugitive. The island's not as deserted as Chohovsky thought, however, and his tender relationship with a Christian monk about to set out for Jerusalem inspires a kind of resurrection. The title character in Yaakov Shabtai's touching ""Uncle Peretz Takes Flight,"" a devout Party member, develops an excruciating passion for another woman that he must keep secret from his patient, vegetarian wife, Yona. The rich descriptions of prewar Palestine thicken the already bittersweet romantic atmosphere with ""Persian lilac... fine golden sand... dry leaves and dove feathers and pieces of coal left over from the fires."" Built around a triangle involving an embittered soldier, a poet-journalist and the leftist woman they both love, David Grossman's ""Yani on the Mountain"" (1980) explores the societal burden of Israel's military structure. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the last Israeli unit withdrawing from Sinai plans to blow up a key Israeli intelligence station. Narrated in journal form by Yani--one of the two men who loves Nimra--the novella puts the friends and rivals in the middle of a political conflict that dramatizes their personal dilemmas. Benjamin Tammuz, Ruth Almog and Yehudit Hendel are the other contributors. Taken together, the novellas offer diverse observations about the identity of the Israeli Jew in modern society, the harsh necessities of political and patriotic responsibility, the hardships of love. (May)