In City of Refuge, Yitzhak Ben-Ner paints a barbed, cruel portrait of Israeli society, which is threatened by some vague catastrophe. The novel consists of seven fascinating monologues, each one the story of an individual living in Tel Aviv, the city of refuge alluded to in the title. These are lonely people with bleak lives, suffering from neglect and from insatiable longing. Mali is a cancer-afflicted man-hunter who takes sadistic pleasure in telling all her sex partners that she is HIV-positive. Eitan Shefi, a former senior security man, is involved in a strange relationship with a single mother. Ruta is an ex-Palmachnik, a coarse and sharp-tongued woman who named her numerous offspring – fathered by both Jews and Arabs – after birds. Leshchinsky is a homeless boy who immigrated from the former Soviet Union and is trying to survive in the city streets and be accepted into Israeli society. Ziva is a retired teacher whose husband, a former state prosecutor, suffers from Alzheimer`s; she is forced to confront a criminal in search of revenge. Yehudai paints graffiti in the city streets and seeks recognition. Finally, Michaela, a singer longing for a child, is forced to wage a battle against the harassment of a crude and repulsive neighbor. All these characters engender aggression, evil and alienation and speak to the reader in their "true" voices. Their monologues contain implied criticism of the disintegrating social and cultural milieu of contemporary Israel, which has lost its sense of togetherness and forfeited the ideals on which it was founded. This is a novel about the present, but it makes a pessimistic statement about the future.
English translation available (for publishers only)