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Love, Natalia

In this epistolary novel, Ruth Almog describes the turbulent times of Natalia Himmelfarb, whose life follows the major changes in Israeli society over the past 35 years. In late 1967, Natalia is a young, independent woman who is unsure of her worth as a painter and sculptor. Her mentor, Ze’ev Rubin, an art teacher and architect whom she loves, has gone to Paris with his wife and children. She writes him letters detailing her uncertainty about her art. When he hints in one of his letters that sculpture isn’t for women, she is hurt and accuses him of male chauvinism. The correspondence takes place during the student rallies in Paris and the beginning of the settlement movement in Hebron. Natalia is also engaged in an active exchange of ideas with her married friend Leah, who is studying biology in the USA, but is becoming more interested in yoga and alternative medicine.

The novel spreads across continents as its protagonists migrate from place to place. Ze’ev prefers Paris to managing an art school in Tel Aviv, and his son does not want to return to Israel at all. Natalia, who goes back and forth between Israel and the USA, marries Eli Malchi, a professor of Italian literature who lives in New York. Eli refuses to discuss his personal Holocaust history, even with his wife. The couple have two children and Natalia has difficulty balancing her life as an artist and a mother. Unlike Natalia, Myra – her friend – dedicates her entire life to her art. She has neither home nor family and, in the end, she takes her own life by jumping from a tall building.

Shortly before the outbreak of the first Intifada, Natalia, now a cancer patient, decides to return home to die, and also to show her final exhibit – a protest called Checkpoints. Ironically, her daughter Yasmin, who has become a fanatic and is married to a rabbi, decides to settle with her husband in Hebron. Yasmin’s brother settles in Italy where he works as an architect. This is a novel about opposites, with a deep chasm between them.

Title Love, Natalia
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Keter
No. Pages 260pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Be-Ahava, Natalia
  • “ This novel is both a complex literary experiment and an enchanting, lyrical narrative… Almog is one of our most important and interesting writers. ”

  • “ A great pleasure to read. ”

    Yedioth Ahronoth
  • “ I laughed and sipped the beautiful book Almog has written with great pleasure… Love, Natalia marks another turning point in Almog's writing – politics, which usually don't play a major role in her novels, are very much present here. ”