Page 55 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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HALKIN / THE CASE OF THE IMPOSSIBLE MOONS
43
They have all the trappings of a modern fairy tale — and while
there is a place in literature for fairy tales, even modern ones, it is
not as the coda to an otherwise realistic novel.
In general one wonders whether both
A Late Divorce
and
A Per­
fect Peace
might not have been better books had they not sought
such symbolic completeness. The best writing in
A Late Divorce
(and it is very good indeed) occurs in those passages where
Yehoshua explores the painful ways in which thwarted love turns
to hatred among families, and the book might have benefited had
he stuck to that theme and left his Jungian constructions of Jew­
ish history for an essayistic sequel to
The Diaspora
A Neurotic
Solution.
Similarly, if reading Amos Oz’s recent book of non­
fiction
In The Land O f Israel
tends to be a more powerful experi­
ence than reading
A Perfect Peace
even though the latter is the
more literarily ambitious work, this may be because many of
A
Perfect Peace's
symbolically transmitted statements, which ob­
struct the realistic development of what might otherwise have
been a magnificent Israeli “Fathers and Sons,” appear more di­
rectly and persuasively in the essays. Perhaps, despite the toll he
had to pay, Bialik’s instincts were healthy when he decided to
write in two distinct voices. Symbolic realism is an understand­
able temptation, especially to the Israeli novelist, but its losses can
outweigh its gains. It is a fictional form to be handled with great
care.
Though epilogues are not common in literary essays, a brief
one is in order here.
When, while translating
A Late Divorce
, I pointed out to A.B.
Yehoshua that he had written about an impossible moon, he de­
clined to retract it, responding with his own version of Galileo’s
e
pur si muove
— the difference being, of course, that Galileo was
defending the scientist’s right to describe the laws of nature and
Yehoshua the novelist’s right to ignore them. Amos Oz, on the
other hand, reacted differently: after considering the matter he
agreed to my suggestion that his full moon be changed to a gib­
bous one, which can indeed be seen in the overhead sky at noon­
time. Perhaps this was simply a calendrical matter. It is not really
consequential in
A Perfect Peace
whether the picnic takes place on
Tu bi-Shevat or not, whereas the fact that
A Late Divorce
con­
cludes on the second night of Passover is obviously not subject to
change; Yehoshua’s only other option would have been to omit