Page 125 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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LOWIN / DAVID GROSSMAN’S USEFUL FICTIONS
117
his 1988 journalistic reportage on the West Bank, or, depending
on one’s politics, the area of Judea and Samaria. One’s politics
aside, a significant quirk of
The Yellow Wind
is Grossman’s in­
tercalation into his reportage of a short piece of fiction, a story
called “Swiss Mountain View.” One analyst of
The Yellow Wind
singles out this chapter for special attention and comes to the
conclusion that “as a unique instance of deviation from the jo u r ­
nalistic reportage, the fictional mode of this chapter underscores
the centrality of its vision.”6 Fiction, apparently, has a power
— the power to crystallize and convey one’s truths — that even
truth itself does not have.
“Swiss Mountain View,” the intercalated story in question, tells
the tale of Gidi, the Israeli civil administrator of a West Bank
Arab village. Six years earlier, just after the Six-Day War, when
he was an army officer in charge of the village’s occupation,
Gidi had invented a fiction designed to ingratiate himself with
the villagers. He passed himself off as “Abu Dani,” using an
Arabic honorific signifying that he was a family man like the
villagers, the father of a first-born son named Dani. It turns
out that Gidi was not even married at the time and that, only
yesterday, his wife of four years had given birth to their first
son. On the day of the story’s action, Gidi returns to the village
after a six months leave.
The story revolves around Gidi’s need to tell the tru th to
the villagers, to whom he had come to feel quite close. His di­
lemma is two-fold: How can he tell the truth without losing
the villagers’ good-will? And how can he purify their relation­
ship, corrupted by the telling of the lie, except by telling the
truth?
The story recounts Gidi’s passage among the villagers as he
tries to decide to whom he will break the news first. It tells
of his reactions to and assessments of the people under his ad­
ministration. The spotlight falls, finally, on Abu Khatem, the
richest of the villagers, who, since the occupation, has remained
aloof, a recluse in his house on the hill. As Gidi enters the house,
he sees a painting on the wall, “a huge Swiss mountain view,
complete with peaceful stream, a snow-covered alp, and green­
6. Rachel Feldhay Brenner. “The Anatomy o f the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
Universalism and Particularism in David Grossman’s
The Yellow Wind. Shofar
8(1990):33.