Friend­ly Fire

  • Review
By – January 9, 2012

Death per­me­ates A. B. Yehoshua’s lat­est take on Israeli soci­ety; death and regret and bit­ter­ness and despair. And yet, as Yehoshua is wont in his mas­ter­ful way to do, he has giv­en us a com­plex and nuanced sto­ry which is also filled with opti­mism and love and light and hope. 

Beau­ti­ful­ly ren­dered, this is the sto­ry of Amotz Yaari and his wife, Daniela, who is leav­ing him for the week of Hanukkah to vis­it her broth­er-in-law who has moved to Tan­za­nia after the death of Daniela’s sis­ter, his wife. Amotz and Daniela have rarely been apart dur­ing the course of their long mar­riage and sep­a­ra­tion and dis­tance high­light and fore­shad­ow the events in the sto­ry. Yaari, the soul of respon­si­bil­i­ty, takes care of his extend­ed fam­i­ly, wor­ries about the strange wind-like sounds emit­ting from the ele­va­tor shaft in a recent project he designed, and, with gen­er­al good humor, tries to care-take his world. His broth­er- in-law, con­verse­ly, has run as far as he is able from Israeli soci­ety, abjur­ing even a glance at a Hebrew news­pa­per or a pos­si­ble chance meet­ing with a vis­it­ing Israeli. Haunt­ing the nar­ra­tive and shed­ding light on the actions of all the oth­ers is one char­ac­ter remain­ing unseen and unheard, a sol­dier killed by friend­ly fire” dur­ing the Intifa­da. This act of inad­ver­tent vio­lence, the friend­ly fire,” along with the glow­ing fire of the Hanukkah can­dles, illu­mi­nates the tan­gled mosa­ic that is Israeli life in a unique and mem­o­rable way. The nov­el is filled with bal­ance and counter-bal­ance; the solid­er who gave his all and the one who can no longer bear to sol­dier on; those who seek inti­ma­cy and those who feel the need to dis­en­gage; the highs and lows, lit­er­al and fig­u­ra­tive, in the life of an ele­va­tor engi­neer. All this is set with­in the great­est conun­drum of all, dai­ly Israeli life with the mix of secu­ri­ty and inse­cu­ri­ty that come along with every breath and every step. 
Friend­ly Fire, though all new in its cre­ativ­i­ty of char­ac­ter and plot, is vin­tage Yehoshua in its expres­sion of love and con­cern for his peo­ple and land.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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