Published November 1999
Length 358 pages
The Continuing Silence of a Poet
This new edition of A. B. Yehoshua’s novellas and short stories includes two stories which did not previously appear in the hardback edition published in 1988, and no longer includes 'Mr. Mani' which, in the intervening years, has been developed into a prize-winning novel.
The development of the author’s style can be traced from its dark beginnings in stories such as ‘The Yatir Evening Express’, about a village which decides to vent its frustration at its isolation and insignificance on the evening express.
Isolation and loneliness are central to Yehoshua’s concerns, whether it be people’s isolation from each other, from their community or from their family. The pain of this isolation is intense, as in the title story in which the distance between an ageing poet and his simple son is agonising. In ‘Facing the Forests’, a fire-watcher’s isolation gives rise to deep longings for tragedy – a story which has since been seen to symbolise the relationship between Jew and Arab in Israel.
Several of the stories deal with people thrust into positions of responsibility and the feelings of frustration and impotence which ensue are disturbing – murderous even. In ‘Three Days and a Child’, a man agrees to care for the three-year old son of a former lover. Those three days are marked by a strange detachment and sadistic, heart-stopping neglect of the child.
The stories are ironic and understated, and the pace masterly. This collection confirms Yehoshua’s talent as a major short-story writer. He has been awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for his entire œuvre.
About A.B. Yehoshua
Born in Jerusalem in 1936, A.B. Yehoshua is the author of eleven novels, a collection of short stories, plays and essays. One of Israel’s top novelists, he has won prizes worldwide and in 2005 was shortlisted in the UK for the first Man Booker International Prize. An outspoken critic of both Israeli and Palestinian policies, A.B. Yehoshua continues to speak and work for peace.
‘…for Yehoshua has found a way of writing inside that no-man’s land where the perception of objective reality and private dream or hallucination jostle for position. Reading his stories you realise that this shifting between real and unreal is not peculiar to his characters. It is actually what goes on in our heads most of the time. I don’t know any writer who has transcribed this phenomenon so economically.’
Victoria Glendinning, The Sunday Times
‘The originality of these stories, their characters, and the emotions they express so precisely and movingly have remained so clearly in my mind that I feel justified in taking risks. I was as moved and impressed by them as when I read Mann’s Death in Venice and some of Chekhov.’
Susan Hill, New Statesman
‘It seems typical of this highly talented Israeli writer that we are left with more questions than answers after reading what he has to tell us and that the most urgent and disturbing questions are always more suggested by his work than stated in it.’
Robert Nye, The Guardian
‘Yehoshua himself emerges through the collection as a writer of borderline states: he describes near-madness, near-death, near-sadism. People living under continual threat of war toy with their fantasies until they bring them to life. They succumb to a detachment that verges on cruelty or to a love that verges on masochism. They regard their lives with restrained despair, while secretly longing for tragedy and resolution. Yehoshua explores all this with understated formality and a difficult and moving honesty.’
Nicci Gerard, The Observer
‘Yehoshua . . . is very much the enfant terrible whose stories evoke the dreadful silence of a people who live on the edge of destruction. Paradoxically, Yehoshua — like his literary Doppelgänger Amos Oz —is today a Grand Old Man of Israeli letters.’
Bryan Cheyette, The Times Literary Supplement
‘…a considerable œuvre.’
Andrew Sinclair, The Times
‘Even at his most prosaic, Yehoshua’s vision remains dark and menacing but this can be conveyed to powerful and haunting effect, as in ‘The Last Commander’, an offering to rank with the greatest of war stories. A welcome and far from silent collection.’
Seamus Finnegan, The Jewish Chronicle
‘Yehoshua makes great art out of seemingly unpromising characters and situations.’
David Aberbach, The Jewish Quarterly