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The Living on the Dead

Aharon Megged
Two parts in Israeli history - the pioneering past and Tel Aviv bohemia in the 1960s - face off in this seminal novel by Aharon Megged. Jonas Rabinovitz, a young writer, has been commissioned to write a fictionalized biography of Abrasha Davidov, a legendary pioneer and nation-builder in the years leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel. Jonas starts work, but he becomes too personally involved in his subject and is sued for breach of contract. During the trial, Jonas writes a confession about the still-unwritten book, in which Davidov`s life is juxtaposed with his own.
Davidov`s life is portrayed through a series of meetings that Jonas has with people who knew the pioneer at various stages of his life - as a revolutionary who left Russia after World War I, as the man who built roads, established settlements, worked at the Dead Sea phosphate plant, played an active role in the defense of the country, inspired the masses, and was finally killed by mistake on the road to Sodom. The man who emerges from these stories was a proud Jew with the soul of a gypsy, moving from place to place as needed. He was also a devoted family man with a son and a daughter: his son was killed in the 1948 War of Independence, his daughter married and moved to Australia with her husband.
A different picture emerges, however, when Jonas talks to Davidov`s widow. In her eyes, Davidov was an adventurer who neglected his family and sacrificed his sensitive son. In the midst of this unfolding portrait, Jonas himself lives a wild and irresponsible life. He divorces his own wife and joins a group of bohemian Tel Aviv artists who discuss avant-garde literature, drink all night, womanize, and sneer at the values of the past. In this way, the hero of the past is offset by the antihero of the present and the lofty ideals of the pioneers contrast with the decadence of the younger generation. Caught between his admiration for the past and his revolt against it, it is hardly surprising that Jonas betrays the social mission he undertook.


MeggedA The Living on the Dead
Title The Living on the Dead
Author’s Last Name Megged
Author's First Name Aharon
Language(s) English, Romanian, Russian
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Am Oved
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 1965
Publisher 2 (Hebrew) Achuzat Bayit
Year of Publication 2 (Hebrew) 2006 (see: Three of Them, below)
No. Pages 229 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Ha-Hay Al Ha-Met
Representation Represented by ITHL

Translations

English: London, Jonathan Cape, 1970; New York, Viking, 1970;  New York, McCall, 1971; New York/ London, Toby Press, 2005; Las Vegas, AmazonCrossings, forthcoming
Romanian: Bucharest, Univers, 1972
Russian: Jerusalem, Aliya, 1977
 
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