Fic­tion

Wall of Light

Edeet Rav­el
  • Review
By – August 10, 2012

The end of a tril­o­gy, this nov­el intro­duces three gen­er­a­tions of a fam­i­ly liv­ing in Israel from 1973 to the present. With vital char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, Edeet Rav­el depicts their quirks and affec­tions both poet­i­cal­ly and real­is­ti­cal­ly. The author’s skill lies in weav­ing the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic real­i­ties of every­day life in Israel with­out insert­ing the specifics of the polemics and par­ti­san­ship involved. Arabs fig­ur­ing in her nov­el are peo­ple with life-prob­lems; those whose prob­lems are exac­er­bat­ed by polit­i­cal­ly-gen­er­at­ed sit­u­a­tions seem to have absorbed them into their dai­ly lives with­out com­ment. Absent are direct polit­i­cal allu­sions to polit­i­cal fig­ures, the dai­ly pan­ic of news­pa­per reports and the like, until the end of the book, when death-threats esca­late. I saw a demon­stra­tion today…a rab­bi was being dragged away on the side­walk. At least some Israelis are doing something!” 

Thus the ten­sion of the sto­ry is com­plete­ly with­in the pro­tag­o­nists’ lives. Ravel’s char­ac­ters have deft and often uncon­scious humor. She uses telling allu­sions, as she speaks in the voic­es of a Russ­ian émi­gré actress, Anna; her daugh­ter, Sonya, the most anom­alous per­sona; and Anna’s son and grand­son. Oth­er char­ac­ters appear as part of the speak­ers’ nar­ra­tion. The book opens with the grand­moth­er, in 1973, speak­ing of her strug­gles to stage As You Like It, the hap­pi­est of Shakespeare’s plays, whose char­ac­ters live in a near-par­adise. Anna says they need to find a hall, get a bud­get, actors, and a Hebrew trans­la­tor — in that order. 

Sonya, a math pro­fes­sor, believes that there is a process of retar­da­tion [in Israel] capa­ble of pro­duc­ing intel­li­gent babies, and turn­ing them grad­u­al­ly into morons, until at 50, they are near­ly brain-dead. She, deaf from med­ical mal­prac­tice when she was a child, iron­i­cal­ly thrives as a math pro­fes­sor in Israel’s vig­or­ous­ly ver­bal soci­ety. With a man­ner of intense calm, she has fre­quent con­tact with Arabs. The improb­a­bil­i­ty of her end-of-sto­ry expe­ri­ence points out the relent­less yet accept­ed con­tra­dic­tions of life in Israel. Wall of Light is good read­ing on many levels.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

Discussion Questions