Almost Dead

  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

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.

Read Assaf Gavron’s Posts on the Vis­it­ing Scribe

New York, 1998: Research for Mov­ing”

Jerusalem, 1995 – 1996: Eat­ing Stand­ing Up

Wild West Bank

Almost Dead: Gaza, 1988 / Tel Aviv & Jerusalem, 2002

Phil Sandick is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son. He has taught cours­es in lit­er­a­ture, com­po­si­tion, and cre­ative writ­ing since 2006. Phil is cur­rent­ly study­ing rhetoric and com­po­si­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na-Chapel Hill.

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