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.