Page 43 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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FURSTENBERG / WOMAN IN ISRAELI LITERATURE
37
than A brasha , is in sp ired by his idealism , deve lop ing as does the
kibbutz, through efficiency and normalization . He courts Batya
but leaves her when he is hum iliated by her little daugh ter . Batya
sinks into a fantasy world woven o f the first passions o f the
kibbutz, while Felix utilizes them fo r creating the normal, worka­
day life o f the kibbutz. All this remains intact until the storm that
is the point o f dep a r tu re o f the story symbolically unearth s and
exposes the m adne ss o f Batya ’s und e rg roun d world, the other
side o f Zionist normalcy.
MAJOR NOVEL
In his more m ature work, “My Michael,” Oz draws a de ep e r
psychological portra it using rich symbolic language . One o f the
finest characterizations o f woman in contemporary Israeli litera­
ture, its heroine H annah is, on the simplest level, a moody, intelli­
gent woman m arr ied to a du tifu l, i f somewhat dull geologist
nam ed Michael who lives in Je ru sa lem in the fifties. Michael’s
father calls H annah a poet who doesn ’t write poetry and indeed ,
the old m an ’s compliment points to a recognizable type o f woman
who, sensitive and , perh ap s, se lf-dramatizing , finds no outward
form s or goals to exp re ss this sensitivity. Hannah is attracted to
Michael because o f his fineness and steadiness, but he is not
exciting or sexually aggressive enough to satisfy or contain her
violent emotions. He does not create the hard reality fo r H annah
that she had expec ted from him initially.
We were together . I breathed his smell. He felt very real.
So did I. I was not a figment o f his thoughts; he was not a
fear inside me. We were real.
Bu t Michael’s hard , every day reality is too narrow fo r Hannah .
It does not satisfy her, yet she has nothing larger to replace it with.
So she escapes into a fantasy world where everything is possible.
As the book deve lops Hannah em erges as more than a d issatis­
fied, romantic housewife. She lives increasingly in a sinister,
n ightmare world peop led by demon ic forces. She becomes more
and more hysterical.
I would still wake before dawn wide open to the evil voices
and recurren t n ightm ares, chang ing and limitless in their
nuances. Sometim es a war. Som etimes a flood. A railway