Page 87 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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YUDKIN / YITZHAK BEN-NER, ISRAELI NOVELIST
79
privacy, so will not wash. His isolation is thus confirmed in un­
mistakable terms.
x
The novel conveys the sense of total chaos into which the
country has been plunged. Together, the monologues represent
an approach in words, and Holi’s isolation offers an analogue
of the situation in fact. The third speaker, Harul of the Security
Service, sees both points of view politically. He both recognizes
the justice of the Palestinian cause, but also its destructive intent.
He however becomes involved in a highly ambiguous enterprise,
when he builds up a local young Arab, Fawzi, as a leader in
order to destroy him and thus induce despair and doubt
amongst his Palestinian followers. The irony is that Fawzi turns
out to be a double agent working for Israel. What is he if not
“a Jewish-Arab transvestite”? (p. 232) Again, we are in a world
of split individuals, dubious identities, and in order to present
this world we are offered a chorus of vocal/dumb, Left/Right,
Jew/Arab, father/son, visible soldier/secret agent on both sides.
What remains is the doubt regarding the nature of the char­
acters and of character generally.
WHO IS THE FOOL?
A new perspective is offered in a recent novel by Ben-Ner,
Boker Shel Shotim
(Morning of Fools, 1992). Here, he combines
approaches adopted in earlier work with the unusual decision
to see the Israeli world through the eyes of someone regarded
by others as subnormal. Again we have an intense involvement
with Israeli reality and with its public sphere, against the back­
ground of the intifada, which has now gone on longer than
almost any Israeli predicted. And again there is the situating
o f the central character as “other,” in this case, the otherness
of idiocy. Uzai is a social outcast, but the reader sees the world
from within his own head. And if he is an idiot, he is an idiot
who recognizes his own idiocy. What might confuse the reader
in this instance is that the narrator is manifestly good, and so
the rest of the world, that world that has “othered” him is held
up to question. This work does not suffer from any confusion
of modes, styles or genres. And it does not attempt to be poly­
phonic, although its central figure evinces understanding of
those who reject him. One factor that may confuse the reader,
nevertheless, is the degree of self-awareness evinced by the nar­