Vultures opens with a powerful silence - the silence of death, but also of the world left behind. Focused through the borderline between the two, this 1977 masterpiece of Kaniuk`s follows the shattered consciousness of a young soldier, the only survivor on a battlefield, who is surrounded by his dead comrades and exposed to the whistling of enemy bullets. At first, the soldier-narrator pretends to be dead in the hope that he will be spared. But later, he finds that the vultures that come to peck the bodies of the dead are even more fearful than the enemy. In the last part of the story, a huge flock of these "Lords of the Sky" appear, and they seem to him glorious as well as threatening. In poetic language that contrasts with the horrors he describes, Kaniuk skillfully conveys the encounter between the moment of death and a creation filled with splendor, between the soldier`s loss of his comrades and the sense of betrayal this leaves behind. Finally, the soldier reflects on man’s losing battle with death, and the existence to which its survivors are sentenced.
In Dead Flesh, first published in 1997, Kaniuk gives us a poignant analysis of his generation, which fought to establish the State of Israel. This bitter-comic novel can be read as a social allegory with a large dose of political criticism. An elderly man of seventy-something, who fought in the elite Palmach unit in the late 1940s, reveals the truth about fifty-five horrendous murders that have taken place in Tel Aviv in recent years and dampened its usually high spirits. It turns out that he and his old comrades are the perpetrators. Angry at their aging and physical decline, these men have declared war on the arrogant, handsome young people who strut the streets and impose their superficial pop culture on the country. The purpose of "Operation Bastards," as it is called, is to eliminate this new generation. It is the old men`s last war-cry as well as their protest against the socio-cultural climate of the 1990s in Israel. And it restores their manly pride. But only until the daughter of one of the old warriors is murdered.
Yoram Kaniuk is a fascinating author… both elusive and a contortionist. He is the Houdini of Israeli literature and no shackles can bind him… This book confuses the senses: the eye laughs, yet the heart weeps.
Kaniuk manages to surprise, enthrall, and unsettle.
Vultures: English Translation available (for publishers only)