At the center of this appealing historical novel stands the fictional Mark Zhitlany, a dedicated physician. Mark`s adventures show the difficulty of Jewish life at the turn of the 20th century, and focus on a little known chapter-the establishment of farming settlements in Argentina. Mark`s father left the poverty of Jewish life in Odessa and emigrated to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although his son Mark enjoys a comfortable life, he is concerned about his many poverty-stricken relatives in tsarist Russia who are exposed to rioting and pogroms. During his medical studies in Vienna he befriends Lucien, the son of Baron Maurice de Hirsch, and is drawn to the Baron`s vision of resolving anti-Semitism and the wanderings of the Jewish people by establishing farming colonies in Argentina. Mark becomes the Baron’s emissary and travels through Europe with the aim of enlisting Jews for the project. He later emigrates to the first colonies in Argentina and serves as physician to the communities there. During these years, his good friend Lucien suddenly dies and he has an unhappy love affair. Later, his love for Ruhama will take him from South America to the malaria-stricken Land of Israel.
Behind Mark`s story and the long journey he undertakes stands a historic longing that is shared by friends and relatives alike: a yearning to belong, to have a country, security and love. It is this longing that shapes this beautiful, sensitive novel.
I read this moving book with great eagerness and finished it the very same day… This is Judith Rotem's sixth book – I've read all and enjoyed all!
Judith Rotem conjures up the fascinating figure of Baron Hirsch along with the reality of 19th century Israel… Longing is simply a must read book.
English translation available (for publishers only)