Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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Yitzhak Ben-Ner, Israeli Novelist:
Hero on the Margins
THINGS HAVE p u z z l e d
the attentive reader of Israeli fiction
about Yitzhak Ben-Ner (b. 1937). In the first place, he seemed
to have two careers. His first novel,
Ha-Ish mi-Sham
(The Man
from There), was published in 1967. But his second volume
did not appear until nearly a decade later.
Shekiah Kafrit
Sunset, 1976) was the title given to a collection of stories, com­
posed over the preceding years. Following the much greater
attention afforded to this, his second volume, there has followed
a constant stream of novellas, stories and works for children.
The other puzzle lies in the difficulty of placing him. The author
seems to be both strongly naturalistic, digging up the roots of
Israeli reality, with its underbelly of frustration, hatred and de­
pravity, but also surrealistic and futuristic, mixing his materials
and approaches, thus rendering definition problematic. He cer­
tainly belongs to the wave of Israeli symbolist narrative writers,
particularly prominent in the 70s, but he was primarily wel­
comed as a psychological realist.
The author’s subject moves from the situation of a Palestinian
Jew, wounded in Egypt just before Israeli independence, and
living with an Egyptian family near the border (in his first nov­
el), to the heat of the intifada. Whereas the recent novels seem
to be preoccupied with the present, with violent, contemporary
Israel in its increasingly brutal struggle with the Arab popu­
lation, the author is by no means trapped in one single vision.
That first book is situated well out of the author’s biographical
vicinity, and the long novel,
(Protocol, 1983), is an imag­
inative attempt to penetrate a very different space and time,
the Haifa of the 20s, as seen through the eyes of an old Bol­
shevik, working to overthrow the present order, that established
by the British Mandate for the small community of Zionists in