In his fifth novel, acclaimed Israeli novelist and translator Assaf Gavron masterfully presents the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of his two narrators. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Eitan “Croc” Enoch, an Israeli business executive who has astonishingly survived three recent terror attacks, and Fahmi Sabih, a young Palestinian bomber who lies comatose in a hospital.
Partly out of rage at Israeli soldiers who denied his plea to collect water for his dying mother, Fahmi had joined his domineering older brother in underground terrorist activities. Through Fahmi’s recollections, we are offered glimpses of his love for family (in particular his sister, Lulu), his deep-seated distrust of the Jewish people, his naiveté, and his homesickness. Croc, meanwhile, is on his way to becoming a national hero, appearing on television after surviving his third attack. He becomes a symbol for the resiliency of Israel against terrorist acts, as the populace marvels at this seemingly miraculous turn of events. In the process, however, Croc also becomes a new target for terrorists, adding to his already long list of concerns. He has a troubled relationship with his longtime girlfriend, and is also attempting to connect the dots of an unraveling mystery: while getting off the bus, just seconds before the first attack, Croc met a man who feared an imminent incident, and left a desperate message with Croc to contact his wife.
With biting wit and impeccable narrative control, this satisfying, funny, and poignant novel, originally published in Hebrew in 2006, excels in its portrayal of contemporary, day-to-day life in Israel. At its heart, the novel is a meditation on entanglements—both national and domestic—and also a meditation on the role of the bystander, and what it means to take sides.
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