Motti

Dalkey Archive  2011

 

Henry David Thoreau spoke of men who lead lives of quiet desperation. Motti, the protagonist of this bleak novel, is one of them. He retreats from his empty life by fantasizing constantly about a future whose simple pleasures—a wife, sex, children, shared happy memories—will never be his. He lives in a godless universe where the weak are at the mercy of the strong and sensitive souls don’t have a chance.

Motti’s beloved dog is named Laika, after the canine cosmonaut launched into space in 1957 by the Soviet Union. The original Laika, pictured on this book’s cover, was harnessed into a tiny capsule, endured a terrifying ordeal during its takeoff, and died of exposure to extreme heat after four days in orbit. In the cosmos where Motti’s story takes place, choice is an illusion, suffering for the sake of the powerful is the norm, and communication fails to mitigate existential loneliness.

When Motti makes an altruistic decision for the sake of his self-centered friend Menachem he pays a great price. But there are no consequences for the casually cruel Menachem, and life goes on for Motti too. Whatever happens, it’s as though nothing really matters in the end.

Asaf Schurr won the Israel Prize for Motti in 2008 at the age of 32.

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