Ron Leshem; Evan Fal­l­en­berg, trans.
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

Writ­ten by first-time nov­el­ist Ron Leshem, Beau­fort is a work of mod­ern his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. Dur­ing the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel cap­tured the ancient fortress of Beau­fort, set­ting up a mil­i­tary out­post from which it would defend its north­ern bor­der for the next eigh­teen years. Leshem’s book cap­tures life and death at the out­post in the last months before Israel’s with­draw­al from its buffer zone in south­ern Lebanon, aban­don­ing Beau­fort and oth­er mil­i­tary sta­tions. Today, that with­draw­al is wide­ly rec­og­nized as hav­ing led direct­ly to the Sec­ond Lebanon War and this his­tor­i­cal hind­sight adds an iron­ic ele­ment to the book. 

Nar­rat­ed by twen­ty-one-year-old Lieu­tenant Liraz Erez” Lib­er­ti, Beau­fort cap­tures the simul­ta­ne­ous ter­ror and banal­i­ty of war and rais­es hard ques­tions about the with­draw­al, ask­ing whether those who died defend­ing Beau­fort did so in vain. The Hebrew ver­sion of the book, pub­lished in 2005 under the title Im Yesh Gan Eden (If There Is a Heav­en), gar­nered rave reviews and spent months atop the best­seller list. It received the Sapir Prize, Israel’s top lit­er­ary award, and was also made into a movie. But, as is so often the case with trans­lat­ed works, part of the mag­ic and pow­er of the Hebrew orig­i­nal seems to have been lost in trans­la­tion. At times the sto­ry drags and it is only once they have reached the last hun­dred pages or so that read­ers will real­ize just how invest­ed they have become in the sur­vival story.

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