Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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42
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
BEN -NER ’S WOMEN
Another writer whose work is highly ch arged with sexuality is
Yitzhak Ben-Ner. Ostensibly more imitative o f life than O rpaz ,
his strong realistic stories often pound women down to their basic
nature. He expo se s the raw emotions o f both men and women
p laying out their primal roles in the context o f the village, Army
camp or the lurid city.
An exam p le o f this is “ Nicole,” a story that deals with the guilt o f
a colonel who was o f f in Beersheba with a young woman so ld ier
when the Yom K ippu r War broke out. It teaches o f the intense
machismo atm osph ere o f the Army camp. Th e maleness d e ­
manded for fighting pervades all other realm s o f living. A lthough
written from a woman ’s point o f view, the p rotagon ist Nicole has
submitted to the Army camp expectation s and has ceded any
other role except the sensual one. A lthough Nicole is a good
student, she do e sn ’t go on to the university when she finishes the
Army, but she p re fe rs to re-enlist in o rder to be together with her
officer boyfriend in the Army camp. It is his involvement with her
that brings about his negligence before the Yom K ippu r War and
ultimately is responsible for the death o f many soldiers.
An intense, masculine, Hemingway-like tone and atm o sph ere
is found in much o f Ben-N er ’s work. It perm eates “V illage Sun ­
set,” which is one o f his most poignan t stories. A man whose life is
deeply bound up with his village defiles it by having an a f fa ir with
a married woman. Little is known about the woman who is Polish
and an outsider. T h e attraction between the young man, not long
out o f the Army, and the woman, em erges in the ho thouse a tm o ­
sphere o f the agricu ltural village, o f a life tied to the earth . As in
the biblical patterns o f Rebecca and Rachel, the woman o f fe r s the
young man water. She is the “o ther ,” the stranger. Th ey meet as
two oppo sites merging . A strong work, there are few accou tre­
ments o f personality and little furn ish ing o f character in Ben-
N e r ’s depiction. In this realistic work, as in O rp az ’ surrealistic
fiction, men and women are stripped down to elemental beings.
Altogether, few Israeli writers o f the sixties and seventies have
portrayed women in their fullness and complexity. Th is is ex ­
plained in part by the allegorical quality o f much o f Israeli writing
in this period . Both men and women become ideological fun c ­
tions, with women often symbolizing the basic fem ale character.
They are the compan ions who bear the passive imprint o f the