Since her childhood, the heroine of Kaniuk`s latest novel has been preoccupied with death. Yet this book is not somber - it is vibrant, illusory, wild and grotesque. The heroine is a nameless young woman, the daughter of a well-to-do, influential and macho Israeli father who in his youth fought in the Palmach and faced death more than once. Her mother was born in Poland and was hidden in a convent during the Holocaust. After coming to Palestine aboard an illegal immigrant ship she married an Arab and had a son by him. Following her husband`s death in the 1948 war she married his cousin who abused her and her son, causing the boy`s death. Her second son, by a Jewish man, died in infancy, and after her marriage to the celebrated Palmach fighter she gave birth to a daughter. Although this woman is afraid of losing her only daughter she is incapable of giving her love and warmth, and the same is true of the girl`s father who never shows his feelings. The novel is written as an obsessive monologue by the daughter, who announces that she hates herself and loves no one. Her favorite landscape is the desert, far from civilization, and her parents from whom she wants to get away, together with all they represent.
The heroine wants to disappear, to erase her identity and "be reborn" as a new person. To achieve this, she hatches a clever plot that entraps not only her parents but also the police and the media. She leaves her bloodstained clothing in the desert and flies to London on a forged passport. There she undergoes plastic surgery which completely changes her features, and later returns to Israel with a new identity as an immigrant from England. Meanwhile the body of a murdered young woman is discovered in a landfill. The police are convinced that it is the missing woman, and even arrest a Bedouin suspected of the murder. Once the mistake becomes evident, another body is found and a date is set for the funeral. The father requests a military funeral for his daughter, and the ceremony is attended not only by the family and close friends, but by the missing daughter herself.
A brilliant novel that examines the absurdity of Israeli reality.
Kaniuk’s explosive force...is enthralling. At times, the tragic entwines with the grotesque and the story of the girl symbolizes the change that Israel needs, how old ideals have lost their meaning. This is how a story becomes luminous – absolutely worth reading.
Highly interesting, passionately political and amazingly real.
Kaniuk writes grippingly.