cover image Way to the Cats

Way to the Cats

Yehoshua Kenaz. Steerforth Press, $20 (325pp) ISBN 978-1-883642-20-4

A throbbing hymn to life, Israeli novelist Kenaz's unflinching exploration of the indignities, loneliness and struggles of old age centers on crusty Yolanda Moscowitz, a 76-year-old retired French teacher living in a Tel Aviv geriatric hospital after a crippling fall. Regarded as one of Israel's best novelists, but scarcely known outside his native land, Kenaz peoples Yolanda's ward with vivid characters: neurotics, seducers, con artists, romantics and lost souls who sporadically rise above the banality of their existence through quiet epiphanies or by facing terminal illness with courage. Perceptive, if slightly paranoid Yolanda, had been married to an abusive French alcoholic. Alone now, she dreads death and seeks a partner against oblivion in fellow patient Lazar Kagan, an ebullient painter who attracts her by reciting Baudelaire. Even when Yolanda returns home, thoughts of death are omnipresent, spurred by her manic-depressive neighbor, who feeds swarms of cats, and an anonymous phone-caller warning Yolanda of a swindler from the ward. One of the first titles for this new press, Kenaz's beautifully translated novel is significant for its sharp observation and utter lack of sentimentality and pretense in confronting the meaning of life and the issue of death. (Mar.)