Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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HILLEL HALKIN
The Case of the Impossible Moons:
on Two Recent Novels by
A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz
A
t r a n s l a t o r
o f
f i c t i o n
reads a book that he is working on with
an attention more scrupulous than the average reader’s, as a re­
sult of which he sometimes discovers, besides the not generally
appreciated fine points of a well-written story, errors or incon­
sistencies that have gone unnoticed by others. Recently, in the
course of translating two widely read and discussed Israeli
novels, both published in Hebrew in 1982,1discovered a curious
pair of such slips. Had either occurred by itself, I might not have
given it much thought. Coming together, however, they made a
decidedly odd couple.
I came across the first of these lapses while translating A.B.
Yehoshua’s
A Late Divorce
(Doubleday, 1984). On the last page of
the novel one of its main characters, Yehuda Kaminka, a middle-
aged Israeli living in America (to which he is about to return), is
killed by a deranged patient on the grounds of the Israeli mental
hospital where the woman he has just divorced after many years
of unhappy marriage (culminating in an attempt on her part to
murder him) is an inmate — and not simply killed but bizarrely
stabbed to death with a pitchfork while trying to elude his son,
who is looking for him, by wearing his ex-wife’s dress over his
own clothes. It is the first day of Passover, the Kaminka family
having celebrated the Seder the night before — or rather, the be­
ginning of the second day, for the sun, which was last seen setting
by the reader several minutes and a little over a page ago, is just
going down and an “enormous moon” has risen over the scene of
the crime.
The enormity of the moon, it must be said, is an entirely realis­
tic detail. Although the moon on the second night of Passover is
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