Writ­ing in the Dark: Essays on Lit­er­a­ture and Politics

  • Review
By – January 23, 2012

Essays on Lit­er­a­ture and Pol­i­tics—this straight­for­ward sub­ti­tle clear­ly defines David Grossman’s sub­ject but in no way reveals the human­i­ty and chal­leng­ing per­cep­tions he shines on it. Writ­ten over sev­er­al years, these essays and speech­es exam­ine Israel — the nation and its indi­vid­ual cit­i­zens — under a light both crit­i­cal and sympathetic. 

I myself have nev­er known a life with­out an ene­my.” With this state­ment Gross­man, an Israeli-born jour­nal­ist and nov­el­ist, illu­mines the sit­u­a­tion in which Israel exists— the vic­tim of cen­turies now liv­ing in its own nation cir­cled by hos­tile states. He fears Israel is falling vic­tim to itself and that the dis­as­ter zone in which it lives is warp­ing the nation­al char­ac­ter. As a writer in this sit­u­a­tion, Gross­man strives to know the oth­er,” to feel ful­ly his or her unique­ness and thus rec­og­nize his or her human­i­ty, a per­son con­struct­ed like our­selves. The effort that under­lies Grossman’s fic­tion also under­lies his polit­i­cal activism. He looks to a time when Israel, bur­dened by an over­dose of his­to­ry,” can break the grip of the past, per­ceive the human­i­ty of the ene­my, and real­ize its full poten­tial as a nation, guid­ed by the high­est uni­ver­sal and Jew­ish values. 

Coura­geous and unset­tling, demand­ing yet com­pas­sion­ate, Gross­man makes a fer­vent argu­ment and plea for Israel to tru­ly know the oth­er and to use that knowl­edge to build a nation that will ful­fill its his­toric and moral mission.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

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