Inside Infor­ma­tion

  • Review
By – June 27, 2023

It’s not sur­pris­ing that Eshkol Nevo is one of Israel’s most crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed and best-sell­ing nov­el­ists. Often filled with flawed yet ulti­mate­ly irre­sistible char­ac­ters, his books are so com­pul­sive­ly read­able that they can be a chal­lenge to put down. Ever since the remark­able debut of his 2004 nov­el Home­sick, Nevo has kept a strong focus on the tra­vails of love, the sus­tain­ing nature of friend­ships, and the mean­ing of home. Over the years, he has reli­ably brought keen insight into this fraught emo­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry, some­times through acer­bic wit and, else­where, aching melancholy. 

Com­prised of three sus­pense­ful and mas­ter­ful­ly craft­ed nar­ra­tives, Inside Infor­ma­tion may be Nevo’s most star­tling and com­plex nov­el to date. The first sto­ry is a grim foren­sic account of the dis­as­trous out­come of a roman­tic hon­ey­moon inter­rupt­ed by an inter­lop­er. The sec­ond con­cerns the unrav­el­ing of a senior doctor’s life after he devel­ops an inex­plic­a­bly fierce, almost uncan­ny urge to pro­tect a young female res­i­dent in his depart­ment. And in the third, most mys­te­ri­ous sto­ry, a husband/​father sim­ply van­ish­es — an espe­cial­ly sur­pris­ing feat in a small coun­try in which every­one seems to know every­one else. Each of these vignettes is writ­ten in a con­fes­sion­al mode with a wide cast of char­ac­ters. A few of them are caught up in self-destruc­tive spi­rals. Oth­ers strug­gle to cope in the wake of inex­plic­a­ble deaths, bewil­der­ing dis­ap­pear­ances, and heartache (one char­ac­ter, deter­mined to over­come a painful betray­al, under­takes a gru­el­ing trek until my legs hurt more than my heart”). In the novel’s thrilling­ly phan­tas­magoric coda, some of these lost souls encounter one anoth­er in a decid­ed­ly bizarre setting. 

Through­out the book, Nevo cap­tures the serendip­i­ty of lives brought togeth­er at pre­cise­ly the right or wrong moment in time. Even when his char­ac­ters fol­low their worst incli­na­tions, he clear­ly has an abid­ing affec­tion for them. As in his ear­li­er works, there are inti­mate por­traits of famil­ial ten­der­ness and some­times heart-wrench­ing mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions between hus­bands and wives, par­ents and chil­dren. And as in the past, Nevo insists on mul­ti­ple pro­tag­o­nists and nar­ra­tors, refus­ing to lim­it his sto­ry­telling to a spe­cif­ic view­point or ulti­mate truth. His fas­ci­na­tion with the fan­ta­sy of trav­el, and par­tic­u­lar­ly with the iden­ti­ties of Israelis abroad, is appar­ent through­out his oeu­vre. The role that Israeli pop­u­lar music plays in his char­ac­ters’ inner lives is also made clear. But most sig­nif­i­cant of his artis­tic obses­sions is the con­sol­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties of sto­ry­telling itself, as in the Tal­mud-inspired third sto­ry in which a bereft wife and her two chil­dren search for answers in the nine­ty-nine cryp­tic prose frag­ments their miss­ing husband/​father has left behind.

With mul­ti­fac­eted por­tray­als of attrac­tion and desire, and their some­times ter­ri­ble denoue­ments, Inside Infor­ma­tion is a fast-paced, invig­o­rat­ing, and thought-pro­vok­ing explo­ration of the human psy­che, utter­ly enthralling from start to fin­ish. Son­dra Silverston’s trans­la­tion is beau­ti­ful­ly attuned to all the psy­cho­log­i­cal acu­ity, sly humor, and pen­e­trat­ing human­i­ty of Nevo’s prose.

Ranen Omer-Sher­man is the JHFE Endowed Chair in Juda­ic Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisville and edi­tor of the forth­com­ing book Amos Oz: The Lega­cy of a Writer in Israel and Beyond.

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