Monday, November 21, 2016

"One Night, Markovitch"

I cannot remember how I heard of the recent Israeli novel One Night, Markovitch by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. I bought it in September, and just finished reading it this weekend. If you want a complete review, I suggest this one from the Telegraph. I agree with the final statement of this review:
One Night, Markovitch,
published January, 2015.
"This is a fable for the 21st century, and Gundar-Goshen a writer whose dexterity proclaims her one to watch."
Two things make this book seem like a fable to me. One is the simple way the characters are presented and described, as if they were not entirely real. The other is the way they are both generalized and also particular: as if the reader is somehow expected to find each one to be a type of person, a type of pre-state Israeli, not just an individual. I was never sure how to map each character onto a such a type, but it seemed plausible.

Sometimes as I read I felt as if I were reading not just a fable but a ghost story: the ghosts of the Israeli past, the ghosts of the idealism and heroism that are attributed to the original fighters, villagers, farmers, and leaders. Each character's traits, passions, and actions seem exaggerated in order to illustrate the challenges of life in Israel during this critical era.

Another review of the book  in the Guardian viewed the novel in quite a different way than I do: "Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s lush first novel ... seems to take inspiration from the magical-realist traditions of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. ... Eternal themes of love and longing, sex and marriage take priority."

One Night, Markovitch is an interesting book whether one reads it as historical fiction, a fable about Israeli history, a magical-realist story of eternal themes, or a bit of all three.

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