"Summer dogs" is the name given to the months of July and August, when the blinding sun attacks the citizens of Israel with all its strength. Skarzisko, Henrietta and her mother, Kahina, want to escape not only from the Israeli summer but also from their dull lives and painful memories. Skarzisko came from Russia fifty years ago, when he was young, but has never felt at home in Israel. Now an eccentric, lonely old man, dubbed "The Mask" by the local children because of his flattened, ugly face, he needs someone to clean up the weeds and thistles that have invaded his yard, and so he puts up an advertisement. Fourteen-year-old Henrietta is an albino whose mother is in a closed psychiatric ward. Feeling abandoned by her mother, and in conflict with her father, she needs money to finance her escape from home with her boyfriend, Eytan. She answers Skarzisko's advertisement, and a unique relationship develops between the two. In the course of the summer, Henrietta is transformed from an unhappy, rebellious child into a young girl, the wound of her mother's illness finally starts to heal and she opens up to life. Despite her reservations about Skarzisko, she becomes close to him, and manages for a moment to touch his heart. At the same time, the narrative takes us into her mother's inner world and explores how her delusion of being the Queen of the Berbers comes from her childhood as a lonely orphan in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. In the end, Henrietta runs away with Eytan to Eilat. Henrietta's skin is badly burnt by the strong Eilat sun and she is hospitalized too, but her peeling skin gives birth to a new self that confronts her past as well as her future with courage.
The novel’s two achievements, linguistic and humanistic, are closely linked… To paraphrase Sartre’s “Existentialism is humanism,” here Vered’s detailed realism is humanism, and this is what gives [his novel] its value and power.
In his first book, Ben Vered appears as a rising talent… I discovered all of his allure and grace as a storyteller.
Although Ben Vered is only 28, his book is a mature, very dark and very complete first book that takes the reader out into the world and reminds us that it is hot.
Iton Tel Aviv
English translation available (for publishers only)