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Past Perfect

Past Perfect chronicles the life of Meir, a middle-aged Tel Aviv engineer, from the day he is diagnosed as suffering from hypertension. Overwhelmed by the sudden awareness that time is running out, his disrupted thought processes spill out in a brilliant stream of consciousness, veering from paralyzing fear to a sense of failure, and through endless inner debates to escape in the form of pathetic erotic encounters.

By interweaving sharply-observed episodes of Tel Aviv life with Meir’s dreams of the Land of Israel, Shabtai subtly conveys the awareness that reality never lives up to the vision. In the concluding chapter, a sexual encounter with an older woman triggers memories of his mother’s warm lap, and his entire life suddenly unravels backwards through childhood to beyond “the black, thick wall” of the womb, where his existence comes full circle and birth becomes one with death.

Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Russian
Title Past Perfect
Writer's Last Name Shabtai
Writer's First Name Yaakov
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Hakibbutz Hameuchad
No. Pages 247pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Sof Davar
  • “ Shabtai [has] the prodigious ability to make things happen resonantly through words…The conclusion [is] a splendidly imagined transcendence.”

    New York Times
  • “ Shabtai’s skeining, winding, eddying prose makes indelible fiction… Psychologically, the scenes are astonishingly acute… The book approaches a classic.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “ Sometimes it happens that an author appears who resembles no other. Unclassifiable…. Yaakov Shabtai is one of these.”