Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book Forecasts: David Grossman and Amos Oz

David Grossman’s new novel To the End of the Land is released in English later this month (trans. Jessica Cohen), a story of grief and war in contemporary Israel. It’s receiving advance praise, especially here in The Guardian. Here’s the publisher’s introduction to the plot:

Ora, a middle-aged Israeli mother, is on the verge of celebrating her son Ofer’s release from army service when he returns to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, she sets out for a hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the ‘notifiers’ who might darken her door with the worst possible news...

Shortly after Grossman began writing this book his youngest son was killed fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and so To the End of the Land was shaped by his own grief. Any reading of the novel will probably also be touched by the knowledge of the author’s loss. I admire Grossman’s bold writing, especially See Under: Love, his tale of how the Holocaust haunted the young state of Israel. (His level headed anti-war campaigning is also impressive in the face of personal tragedy.)

Also on my wish-list just now is another newly translated Israeli novel, Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest by Amos Oz (trans. Sondra Silverston):

In a village far away, deep in a valley, all the animals and birds disappeared some years ago. Only the rebellious young teacher and an old man talk about animals to the children, who have never seen such (mythical) creatures. Otherwise there's a strange silence round the whole subject. One wretched, little boy has dreams of animals, begins to whoop like an owl, is regarded as an outcast, and eventually disappears. A stubborn, brave girl called Maya and her friend Matti, are drawn to explore in the woods round the village...

Oz looks to be working with fable in contrast to Grossman’s realism, but both write with a moral urgency characteristic of the older generation of Israeli novelists. Since I don’t usually buy hardbacks (and the French libraries only stock books in English if the original language is English) I’m in for a bit of a wait, but it’s always good to see the translations emerge.

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