Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Jerusalem of the fifties, a divided city where the border with its
latent violence is never far away, reinforces Hannah’s vision of a
world teeming with sinister forces. She becomes a symbolic coun­
terpoint to the simplistic vision of normalization, of a healthy peo­
ple building a wholesome nation. Having depended on Michael as
her bridge to the world, the lack of personal-sexual satisfaction
leads her to deep alienation from the society, much as the alienated
young watchman in A.B. Yehoshua’s story “Facing the Forests”
aligns himself emotionally with the Arabs that burn down the Jew­
ish National Fund forest.
In a more recent story, “The Hill of Evil Counsel,” Oz grapples
with yet another variation on this theme of a dissatisfied woman
swept away by destructive forces. This tale of a mother who runs
off with an English admiral never implicates the reader in the
twisted inner world of the mother in the same way that
My Michael
does with Hannah. Centering around the veterinarian Dr. Kipnis,
his wife and son in Jerusalem under British rule before ‘48, there
are hints throughout the story of the mother’s disaffection from
her surroundings; the scrubbiness of the Middle East, the heat, the
strangeness, which alienate her from the ideals of her husband and
his cronies.
In this haunting tale distanced by its recollective quality, its his­
torical setting, we witness the cultivated mother who would rise
late in the morning and dress in her silk dressing gown at the time
that “other women in the neighborhood started beating their pil­
lows and mattresses with all their might.” Pained by the absence of
refinement in this rough land, this gentle woman yearns for distant
lands and despairs that “there will never be a river, cathedral, or
forest here.” In one of her few outbursts in the story, the mother
rails against the political and philosophical involvements of her
husband. “I want you to know how much I loathe, yes loathe, your
Wertheimers, Bubers, and Shertoks. I wish your terrorists would
blow them up.”