Page 85 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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YUDKIN / YITZHAK BEN-NER, ISRAELI NOVELIST
77
apparent covers over an alternative version beneath. Dream is
mixed with waking life, the future with the past.
What may be confusing for the reader is not just the post­
modernist assumptions or the lack of coherent and perceived
sequence, but those assumptions as against the narrative expec­
tations generated in earlier fiction. And there still exists the
manifest subject. We are still in Israel, even though it may be
an Israel set in the future, perhaps slightly crazier than the
one with which we are familiar. But whilst the country is veering
off course, it can still be recognized. Religious coercion has gone
crazy, but it takes its bearings from the gross certainties of the
aggressive tokenism and ritualistic, exclusivist nationalism grow­
ing constantly stronger in the wake of the Six Day War. We
have a hero in the novel. That hero is Halperin, fighting for
justice, pursuing his persecutors, attacking the bullies. But
Halperin himself is ambiguous, as within the tranquil Halperin
is another, murderous Halperin.
NEW DEPARTURES
There are various estimates of the success of the new novel.
Does it constitute a distortion and weakening of the author’s
powerful naturalism? Or does it authentically expand the au­
thor’s range and move it into a new mode? Perhaps the reader’s
difficulty is not solely derived from expectations built up but
by a genuine difficulty with lack of plasticity and easy wit that
the form/formlessness must deploy. It is certainly legitimate as
well as interesting to move freely from one form to another,
even within the parameters of one work. But the work must
then generate its own response. Satire is satire, and that is the
predominant mode of the novel. But is there a consistent, uni­
tary social and philosophical vision that underpins that satire?
What do we learn of Halperin other than that he is detached,
middle-aged and desirable? What is his Weltanschauung? Does
the satire go deeper than the funny names given to many of
the characters? It is probably more useful to see this work as
a staging post, an experimental creation on the way to a novel
of a new type that was to emerge in its wake.
One of the novels that followed was an experimental novel
with a pedigree,
Ta’atuon
(Illusion, 1989). It presents the “re­
ality” of the intifada through a series of monologues, a form