... a brilliant short novel that serves as a brave, sharp-toothed brief against letting the past devour the present ... Translated from the Hebrew with a steady hand by Yardenne Greenspan ... Sarid is clearly very scared for Israel. The allegorical rhythms beat too loudly here to ignore. Other writers have described well the reverberations of trauma but few have taken this further step, to wonder out loud about the ways the Holocaust may have warped the collective conscience of a nation, making every moment existential, a constant panic not to become victims again.
The compact , far-ranging novel is quite effective, despite how difficult it is to deal with what is after all very familiar material. The contemporary angle, allowing for a focus on the dangers of forgetting, is quite well-handled, and the narrator (and his spiral into the abyss) plausibly rendered. It's meant to be an uncomfortable trip, too, and it certainly succeeds as that -- with Sarid thankfully avoiding the gratuitously sensational ... a fine addition to Holocaust literature -- though in the mass of it can also feel a bit like just another variation on the theme, not sufficiently differentiated to really stand out in a novel way; artistically it is also generally solid, though arguably, for all the mention of the personal, falling short in the development of the characters (with most of the secondary ones, including wife and child, only incidentally figuring in most of the narrative). Sarid raises and grapples with many of the vital questions -- but they have been widely grappled with before, and even as it continues to be important to engage with them, Sarid's narrator's twisted path is across familiar territory with all the well-known and often-debated markers and issues -- usefully pointed out, but ultimately really only limitedly and hurriedly considered. On the other hand, for those who haven't read extensively on the subject, it's a sharp and good concise take, effectively presented -- an ideal text for college introductory survey courses and the like.