Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
the Yishuv, on the way to Statehood. This narrator is working
in a Communist cell and a breakaway faction (a sort of Trot-
skyite ginger group). This is a far cry indeed from contempo­
rary Israel, although of course current concerns go back to
earlier considerations and conflicts.
But the author does not only portray reality; he also escapes
it. In
Eretz Rehokah
(A Distant Land, 1981), he sets up an an­
tithesis to hectic Israel in a sort of mythical New Zealand fantasy
of the fictional character. Here, in Israel, this middle-aged taxi
driver is frustrated by the financial pressure, which becomes
symbolic of the tormenting country in which he lives. His initial
ambitions for his children, who could, as he would wish, use
him as a springboard for their own advancement, have also been
thwarted. But they have even less than he himself, as they do
not dream. His dream is New Zealand, and it is his theme. At
least in this respect, and for him it is crucial, he sees himself
as “other,” as outsider. They all live in the muck, but whereas
they are content, he hankers beyond. The two poles, those of
current Israel and imagined New Zealand, are expressed by
two language layers, the former crude, sloppy, ungrammatical,
barbarized, the latter rich, polished, measured and rhapsodic.
The theme becomes an obsession, acting as a Messianic hope,
a tantalizing straw which he can clutch. The fantasy offers re­
demption when he is at his lowest ebb: “How can I stand on
my own feet until that day of light arrives when we can all
get on the plane going to Teheran and then on to Hong Kong
and then Singapore, Melbourne, and, from there, to Welling­
ton, New Zealand, Zealand that is new, green as hope? Will
I be able to bear it till then?” (p. 164)* He is frustrated in every
direction, in his marriage too; his wife, once so alluring, is now
gross, unkempt and repulsive to him.
But there seems to be a way out. It is not just New Zealand,
but a lovely woman whom he drives to Ramie. And miracle
of miracles, the two sources of potential salvation are connected,
as it transpires that she had lived in New Zealand for two years
as a child. She can not fathom his enthusiasm for that faraway
land, a place where nothing happens. But, for him, that is pre­
cisely the point: “He wants to tell her that that’s just it: nothing
has to happen, just endless tranquillity and green beauty”
*A11 translations here are my own.