A Good Place for the Night

Savy­on Liebrecht; Son­dra Sil­ver­ston, trans.

  • Review
By – July 9, 2012

Place is the osten­si­ble theme of this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries by Savy­on Liebrecht, an admired and pop­u­lar Israeli writer, with the title of each sto­ry nam­ing its locale — Amer­i­ca,” Kib­butz,” Hiroshi­ma,” Tel Aviv,” Munich,” Jerusalem,” and the title story.

But the exac­ti­tude of geog­ra­phy offers no anchor to the char­ac­ters in these sto­ries. In the open­ing sto­ry, Amer­i­ca is the imag­ined place of romance and adven­ture where the narrator’s moth­er lives with her new hus­band, hav­ing aban­doned the nar­ra­tor, then a young girl, and her father to a drea­ry rou­tine exis­tence in Jerusalem. Only many years lat­er does the nar­ra­tor learn about her mother’s life in Amer­i­ca, cast­ing an entire­ly new light on her life.

The blast of knowl­edge that throws open Amer­i­ca” marks the oth­er sto­ries in the col­lec­tion. Hid­den facts undo the social order of Kib­butz,” half-sus­pect­ed truths make the Bauhaus archi­tec­ture of Tel Aviv” more than a guide’s love of the build­ings, new per­spec­tives in Hiroshi­ma” and Munich” strike strange chords on an Israeli con­scious­ness. Jerusalem” is a home with both its wel­come and its dan­gers. A Good Place for the Night,” set in a world that doesn’t yet exist, wrench­es the hope of the future from the deep pain of the present.

These are unset­tling sto­ries, pre­sent­ing the read­er with ques­tions about the mean­ing of place and how — real or imag­ined — it under­lines our quest for mean­ing and love in the world we inhabit.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions