In this short, compact novel, Ori Rom powerfully evokes the scenes, colors and odors of the rural Land of Israel under the British Mandate, between World War I and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Against the backdrop of established colonies in the Galilee and around the Sea of Galilee, he weaves a powerful and intricate family drama that has an almost Faulknerian quality. At the center of the drama are a tough but tormented farmer; his beautiful, tender-hearted artist wife who feels alien to the local landscape and culture, and their two sons. Their eldest, Shimshon, is sensitive and soft and much loved by his mother; the younger brother, Otniel, is unloved and eventually becomes an abusive husband, cut off from his family and living in Alexandria, Egypt. Echoing the legendary drama, Otniel is like Cain and Shimshon like Abel, but it is Abel who takes the role of the killer.
The disaster takes place one summer, when two British police officers turn up at the family home and flirt with the mother, enabling her to escape from her unsatisfying, provincial life for a little while. Shimshon, then a young boy, sees this and is jealous. Later on, the bullet-riddled bodies of the two Englishmen are found and an investigation begins. Although the identity of the murderer is never discovered, the father decides to send Shimshon far away. Years later, during the shiv’a week of mourning after the mother’s death, Shimshon returns to the family home for a fraught reunion with his aged father, his unfriendly brother and the girl he loved in his childhood, now married to Otniel.
PARTIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
Brilliant, innovative and stirring…Rom’s language fuses the prosaic and the poetic, the violent and the refined, the local and the universal.
An original book…Uri Rom doesn’t invent a language, but rather begets it in pain…His images are absolutely unique.
Simply enthralling. Full of poetry and color and feeling and thought and passion and love.
Kol Israel 1