cover image Love Burns

Love Burns

Edna Mazya, . . Europa Editions, $14.95 (220pp) ISBN 978-1-933372-08-2

In this surprisingly fresh, deeply sardonic debut novel from a famed Israeli playwright, obsessive love drives a middle-aged man to murder. Ilhan, a brilliant astrophysics professor whose life revolves around his young wife, Naomi, tries desperately to hang on to reality after uncovering her passionate affair with a charismatic nature photographer. Burdened by anxiety and self-doubt—which he treats with calls to mom and plenty of Valium cocktails— the professor tries to ignore the romance in the hope it will fizzle. His eventual confrontation with Naomi's alluring lover turns homicidal, resulting in the photographer's late-night burial in the relatively new grave of Ilhan's dead kindergarten teacher. Piling guilt and paranoia on top of overwhelming angst, the neurotic professor struggles to keep his macabre secret from Naomi, and from Anton, his buddy who just happens to be a detective. It shouldn't add up, but Mayza, in first-person narration that shifts jarringly from matter-of-fact to vertiginous, makes Ilhan at once identifiable and deeply alien. She skillfully conveys a personality in collapse, while satirizing every one of the clichés to which it succumbs. (Mar.)