The Living on the Dead, first written in Hebrew in 1965 by award-winning author Aharon Megged, has now been translated into English by Micha Louvisch. It is the story of Jonas Rabinowitch, a promising author who has been commissioned to write the biography of national Israeli hero Abrasha Davidov. But in the end it is a book that will never be written, a book that rejects its author; Jonas is haunted by the legend Davidov, immobilized by his subject to the point where he simply cannot commit pen to paper. The Living on the Dead at times reads slowly and is difficult to follow. Perhaps something has been lost in translation, or perhaps it is that Megged’s protagonist is revealed as a man of little redeeming value. Jonas is self-indulgent, incapable of real relationships and of questionable moral character. Still, the book provides a compelling portrait of life in the young State and an interesting commentary on heroism, reminding us that even the greatest of heroes are ultimately human, subject to weakness and imperfection.
Arielle Listokin is a freelance writer and reviewer living in Jerusalem.