Rarely does a new book become a literary event, critically acclaimed as a classic on publication. Shimoni's work has already been described by the literary experts as one of the finest Hebrew works of all times. The novel is composed of three independent parts that meld to a single entity. In the first part, eight soldiers are preparing a training film at an Israel Defense Force's base, and the plot explores the consciousness of the different participants. This creates an ironic gap between their silly collective project and life story each individual soldier bears, a life story heavy with painful experiences of indignities and sorrow, missed opportunities and humiliations. The film-making is interrupted by tragedy: someone is burnt alive, and a homicide detective, an Israeli version of the lonely, lackluster investigator, is sent to the army base to investigate the case. In the second part of the work, which takes place in Paris, an art student tries to create a variation on Mantegna's famous painting of the dead Jesus. He finds three mendicants in the street who become models for Jesus and two mourners for his painting. He sneaks into a Parisian morgue with the paupers. Here also there is a gap between their mindless banter and the student's tortured soul. The third part of the work is written as a legend about an entire nation that joins forces to construct a monument to the local deity. This mission is bound to fail from the onset, both because of man's limited capabilities and because of art's inability to cope with the dimensions of the deity and of the universe. Each part of the novel is written as a Passion, describing the lives of the characters as a journey to the cross embroidered with joy and pain, eros and death and persistent attempts to grasp some happiness.
A Room is a gift to the reading world... A dense, stubborn, daunting, exhilarating masterpiece... In Shimoni’s prose, we’re reminded of all the possibilities
that narratives still possess – the catch and release of details, the
fragmentary quality of perception and understanding, the playfulness, even with
serious subject matter.
The Los Angeles Review of
As with all great works of
literature, it is difficult to believe that so much can be contained by so
relatively small a vessel … The technique manages to convey the variability of
human experience as well as its essential sameness, capturing with acute
poignancy how atomized and distant each human is from every other …A
Room documents the national mood of a country that is forever on
the verge of peace, forever on the verge of war… It is about as complete a
portrait of a nation as any epic, the Iliad, say, or the Odyssey, or perhaps
the Book of Judges … Beautifully written.
A Room is
strongly recommended to readers of post-modern and experimental fiction who
enjoy stream of consciousness narratives and who are willing to delve deeper
than a thin plot’s surface level.
York Journal of Books
A spellbinding, underground novel, a masterpiece.
A writing that concedes nothing, aimed at searching every nook and cranny of solitude.
A scalpel-sharp writing, finely-shaped dialogues, with intensity oozing out of every line.
Youval Shimoni puts together the images of life and composes a fresco of the highs and lows of humanity.
A searing statement about the dangerous and comical insanity of artistic pretensions and of the unavoidable shattering of these pretensions... A book that is both terrible and terrific.
Author Amos Oz
A novel by a serious, bold artist who believes in his ability to lead the reader to a spiritual adventure. This work is important to fully and truly understand our humanity and our Israeli identity.
Author Abraham B.Yehoshua
A great novel... It takes us back to the classic experience of re-realizing both the role and the necessity of great art.
Author Batya Gur