I first set foot in Israel via Canada in the very early days of this blog and with a book by Edeet Ravel, A Wall of Light. I was impressed with this one and corresponded with Edeet via her website.One bonus of the internet is the accessibility it now gives us ordinary readers to the authors we read. Perhaps they are all still hiding away in their garrets but plenty of them have computers up there too.
So it was instinct, on heading back to Israel, to catch up on the first two of Edeet's books that I had missed and there was Ten Thousand Lovers on the shelf, and thanks to Ex Libris in Ohio who sent me this one ages ago.
If Edges O Israel O Palestine was set in the 1960's then it was useful to move onto a book set in the Israel of the 1970's and the life of Lily, a young emigrant student who finds and falls in love with the man of her dreams only to discover to her absolute horror, that he is an Israeli army interrogator.
There is a good deal for the couple to work out in their relationship if it is to survive, and with the awareness that the book itself is being written as a memoir in flashback by Lily, living in London many years later with a daughter,nothing is certain.
Edeet Ravel grew up on a Marxist Israeli kibbutz and though I know nothing about that life I think I know much more about its effects from reading Edeet's writing.
Lily has also grown up as a kibbutznik and with it comes an uninhibited approach to life and freedom, love and relationships which infuse the book, but this is coupled with a sense of real discomfort for Lily when she and Ami pay the Kibbutz a visit.It was not an entirely happy place for Lily as she grew up, that much was evident.
Running alongside the plot is a regular pause and an interspersing of Hebrew word analysis which some may find distracting but I found fascinating.The grammatical root of a word perhaps just used in or suggested by the previous paragraph, with the meaning so often buried deep in the language, explained and then the connections made with the narrative, woven in seamlessly drawing it into the whole.
I think my expectation is for books like this to be partisan and Zionist but Edeet writes with a fine balance, there is genuine tolerance, love and cross-conflict friendship on both sides in Ten Thousand Lovers and Ibrahim, the couple's Arab friend, becomes a true friend in times of trouble.
Certainly in comparision to Edges, the tensions which were mounting then have progressed to full-throttle here and the fear and danger is racking up fast in a land that nevertheless still seems to radiate something special, every book I read about the Levant is telling me so. No amount of tragedy or war-torn trauma can detract from the beauty, the subtle shades and tones of the landscape.Perhaps these things are thrown into sharper relief as a result of conflict, this is what we are defending and you are trying to win, but it's never far away that true love for the land itself held deep by all those who live there.
Nancy Richler of The Globe and Mail says of the book
'revealing the beating heart of the state of Israel as well as it's wounded spirit'
and that just about sums it up .