Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homesick / by Eshkol Nevo; trans. from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston

In modern-day Israel, Amir and Noa are a young Jewish couple who decide to move in together. Both students, respectively at universities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, they select a small apartment roughly midway between the cities in a village called Mevasseret, a town vacated by Palestinians in 1948. Though content with their humble accommodations, it's not quite as secluded as they'd like. Constant bickering between their landlord Moshe and his wife Sima, who live in the neighboring apartment, interrupt their time together just as other nearby tenants seemingly can't help impeding on the young pair's happiness.
A few doors down, a middle-aged couple still mourns the loss of their son, a soldier recently killed in Lebanon. Yotam, the couples neglected younger son wanders about the complex, soon forming an odd friendship with Amir. Keeping a curious eye on everyone is a Palestinian construction worker named Saddiq, something of an unattached man who curiously hangs around in creepy fashion, mindful of the fact that this was where his own family used to live. With time, Amir and Noa find that their new home is fraught with the same problems, much of it other people's problems spilling over into their own lives, which originally prompted their desire to move.
Israeli author Nevo weaves together a stimulating portrait of domestic life set in one of the world's most scrutinized places. Readers shouldn't expect a very linear, straightforward structure from the author who seems at his best telling the story through multi-perspective, first person disclosures. Actually set in 1995, the narrative jumps around from person to person, voice to voice, sharing intimate details along with banal, seemingly insignificant tidbits. Intermittent "chorus" poems spliced between the chapters offer cultural side-notes shining light on the world the characters inhabit--definitely not the Israel of nightly news reports though certainly nothing resembling western civilization's model for a peaceable society. (FIC NEVO)

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