16 March 2009
I just finished reading A.B. Yehoshua's Friendly Fire, his excellent new novel, translated by Stuart Schoffman.
A few quick impressions:
One, a really clever and rich story, woven between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Tanzania with great wit and depth. Much more psychological than I thought it would be, which was a great surprise.
Two, it's never a surprise but always reassuring how much more in control and deeply self-critical Israelis are as compared to the rabble that calls for economic and intellectual boycotts. The public soul searching of contemporary Israelis is quite real--certainly even more so for a public figure like Yehoshua. That Yehoshua chose to weave the prophet Jeremiah into the narrative as a condemnatory theme, a double-bladed knife used to dissect both sides of the divide, was an added bonus. His play between old Jerusalem and new Tel Aviv; his cast of characters--from a disillusioned young Army reservist and deeply embittered and anti-Israeli Israeli hiding out with paleontologists in Tanzania, to an elevator engineer and Palestinian intellectual that I won't say too much about since the plot hinges on many of these characters coming together at key times.
Three, Yehoshua's book should be read by anyone interested in a perfectly snapshot in time of the last three years. I had the sense of reading in real time, only to discover that the book was written in Haifa between 2004-2007.
Four, birthright participants should get a copy on their bus seats. Then they should put Yehoshua on a chair in Binyanei Ha'Uma and have him give a jeremiad on the current situation.
The book is some seriously good secular Torah.