One of my favorite authors is an Israeli writer Amos Oz. His novel Fima is about a middle-aged divorced man named Fima, who works as a secretary at a gynecology clinic. He’s a brilliant man, but as all his friends say he’s unmotivated, a kind of an oaf. He continuously tells himself that he’s going to get his act together, going to get that Ph.D., or run for office, or write another article. He loves his ex-wife’s ten year old son, and his ex-wife, and he sleeps with his best friend’s wives.
Oz has a patented pattern to his stories. It’s an undisturbed rhythm. Methodical but precise. The most powerful scene is when Fima visits his ex-wife Yael, attempts to get her to run away with him, but she’s upset, exhausted, and recalls a time when they were married and she went to the abortion clinic:
“It was also in the winter. It was February then too. Two days after my birthday. In 1963. When you and Uri were completely absorbed in the Lavon affair. The almond tree behind our kitchen in Kiryat Yovel had started to flower. And the sky was just like today, perfectly clear and blue. That morning there was a program of Shoshana Damari songs on the radio. And I went in a rattling old taxi to that Russian gynecologist in the Street of the Prophets, who said I reminded him of Guiletta Masina. Two and a half hours later I went him, as fate would have it in the same taxi with the little photograph of Princess Grace of Monaco over the driver’s head, and that was that. I remember I closed the shutters and drew the curtains and lay down in bed listneing to a Schubert impromptu on the radio, followed by a lecture about Tibet and the Dalai Lama, and I didn’t get up till eveing, and by then it had started raining again. You had gone off early in the morning with Tvsi to a one-day history conference at Tel Avic University. it’s true you offered to skit it and come with me. And it’s true I said, For Heaven’s sake, it’s not worse than having a wisdom tooth out. And in the evening you came home all glowing with excitement, because you had managed to catch Professor Talmon out in some minor contradiction. We murdered it, and we said nothing. To this day I don’t want to know what they do with them. Smaller than a day-old chick. Do they flush them down the toilet? We both murdered it. Only you didn’t want to hear when or where or how. All you wanted to head from me was that it was all over and don with. But what you really wanted to tell me was about how you’d made the great Talmon stand there on the dais in confusion like a first-year student flunking an oral. And that same evening you rushed on to Tsvika’s, because the two of you hadn’t had time on the bus back to Jerusalem to finish your argument about the implications of the Lavon affair. he could have been a boy of twenty-six by now. he could have been a father himself, with a child or two of his own. The eldest about Dimi’s age. And you and I would go into town to buy an aquarium and some tropical fish for the grandchildren. Where do you think the drains of Jerusalem empty out? Into the Mediterranean, via Nahal Shorek? And the sea reaches Greece. and there the king of Ithaca’s daughter might have picked him out of the waves. Now he’s a curly-haired youth sitting and playing the lyre in the moonlight on the water’s edge in Ithaca. I believe Talmon died a few years ago. Or was that Prawer? And didn’t Giulietta Masina also die? I’ll make some more coffee. I’ve missed the hairdresser now. It wouldn’t do you any harm to have a haircut. not that it would do you much good either. Do you still remember Shoshana Damri at least? A star shine in the sky,/ And in the wadi jacks cry? She’s completely forgotten now, too.”
All of the Oz novels I’ve read are set in Israel during the 1980-90s. Issues of war and love are common themes. Also, the broken middle aged man as the main character. His most recent novel was just released in Israel, so I’m hoping there will be a translation soon.
Another Israeli writer, Ron Leshem, was nominated for an oscar with the adaptation to his novel Beaufort. It’s the story of Israeli soldiers during the first Lebanon War. You can read the first chapter here. It reminded me of O’Brien’s The Things They Carried with his use of repetition. It’s a moving opening to the book. Watch the movie trailer here.