Past Con­tin­u­ous

Yaakov Shab­tai; Dalya Bilu, trans.
  • Review
February 15, 2013

Over­look Press brings back into print Yaakov Shabtai’s nov­el about three Tel Aviv friends and their fam­i­lies, loves, and quar­rels. Though less known to Israeli fic­tion fans than more recent tales of Israeli sec­u­lar alien­ation, Past Con­tin­u­ous (Zichron Devarim in the Hebrew) is wide­ly regard­ed as a clas­sic Israeli nov­el, and was made into a film by Amos Gitai. Set in the 1960s, the action of Past Con­tin­u­ous doesn’t unfold so much as it uncoils, spi­ral­ing around the lives of its pro­tag­o­nists – two of whose deaths are announced in the first sen­tence. Told with min­i­mal dia­logue and in the free-asso­cia­tive method rem­i­nis­cent of Susan Sontag’s fic­tion, Past Con­tin­u­ous cap­tures the ten­sions of mod­ern Israeli iden­ti­ty – even though today the tone is more his­tor­i­cal than con­tem­po­rary. For fans of A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, et al, this new edi­tion of Past Con­tin­u­ous is both essen­tial back­ground read­ing and a wel­come addi­tion to the library.

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