cover image Funeral at Noon

Funeral at Noon

National Galleries of Scotland, Yeshayahu Koren. Steerforth Press, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-883642-03-7

A stark tragedy unfolds in Israeli author Koren's deceptively simple novel, first published in Hebrew in Israel in 1974. In an Israeli village in the 1950s, Hagar Erlich, a childless, frustrated housewife who is drifting apart from her self-absorbed garage-mechanic husband, Tuvia, forms a special attachment to her neighbor's 10-year-old son, Yiftach. She takes him on walks to a ruined, deserted Arab village, where Hagar meets a nameless Israeli soldier with whom, on impulse, she later has a sexual liaison in an abandoned Arab house. After Yiftach spies them through a window during their secret lovemaking, the boy, confused and upset, vanishes from home. Hagar, by concealing the affair from her husband and by misrepresenting to police the circumstances of Yiftach's disappearance, compounds the ensuing tragedy. Koren makes every word count, and his restrained storytelling is charged with the tensions of living in an embattled land. His subtle study of poor communication in a stifling marriage mirrors the disillusionment of Israeli Jews amid the fraying of the old communal pioneer mentality while also echoing the misunderstandings and lack of communication between Jews and Arabs. (Apr.)