Asaf Schurr; Todd Hasak-Lowy, trans.
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

Hen­ry David Thore­au spoke of men who lead lives of qui­et des­per­a­tion. Mot­ti, the pro­tag­o­nist of this bleak nov­el, is one of them. He retreats from his emp­ty life by fan­ta­siz­ing con­stant­ly about a future whose sim­ple plea­sures — a wife, sex, chil­dren, shared hap­py mem­o­ries — will nev­er be his. He lives in a god­less uni­verse where the weak are at the mer­cy of the strong and sen­si­tive souls don’t have a chance. 

Motti’s beloved dog is named Lai­ka, after the canine cos­mo­naut launched into space in 1957 by the Sovi­et Union. The orig­i­nal Lai­ka, pic­tured on this book’s cov­er, was har­nessed into a tiny cap­sule, endured a ter­ri­fy­ing ordeal dur­ing its take­off, and died of expo­sure to extreme heat after four days in orbit. In the cos­mos where Motti’s sto­ry takes place, choice is an illu­sion, suf­fer­ing for the sake of the pow­er­ful is the norm, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion fails to mit­i­gate exis­ten­tial loneliness. 

When Mot­ti makes an altru­is­tic deci­sion for the sake of his self-cen­tered friend Men­achem he pays a great price. But there are no con­se­quences for the casu­al­ly cru­el Men­achem, and life goes on for Mot­ti too. What­ev­er hap­pens, it’s as though noth­ing real­ly mat­ters in the end. 

Asaf Schurr won the Israel Prize for Mot­ti in 2008 at the age of 32.

Meet Sami Rohr Prize Finalist…Asaf Schurr

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