Romano, a divorced, middle aged Haifa lawyer, is embroiled in the fight of his life. For years he has been slogging around in the margins of great events, until being engaged to defend Ismail, an Arab carpenter charged with involvement in a violent incident. Romano realizes that he is trapped in a moral and emotional web whose dimensions he had not foreseen. What had at first seemed to be a business dispute reveals another aspect from the moment its roots in the past are uncovered, from a time when Ismail’s employer went under another name. It emerges that he used to be an interrogator for the security services, and that he had abused Ismail while questioning him. Three decades later, it becomes clear that nothing of what happened then has been forgotten. Romano discovers a notebook that Ismail kept while he was in prison , revealing information about everything that happened then. Now, Romano is endangering his career and his reputation over this case.
The story is told from Romano’s point of view as he gradually uncovers all the details, with Ismail’s notes from his prison diary introduced to give his account of what happened.
Can it be that now, from depths of time past, yet another, graver, crime will arise? Or perhaps the opposite will occur? Will mitigating circumstances be discovered instead? Perhaps it will not be resentments of the past that are decisive, but rather the facts of the present, and unconditional love.
In her third book, Ayelet Shamir isolates a sample taken from the core of Israeli life, and in her powerful prose she succeeds in illuminating the complexities of that life.
Ayelet Shamir is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize and the Ramat Gan Prize for Literature.
Ayelet Shamir’s book “The Burden of Proof” is a book written with restraint, softly, humorously. But trickling under the surface there are shocking acts of evil that pierce the reader’s soul. Evil that a woman did to a man, evil that the security services did to an honest Arab carpenter, and other evils that are ostensibly all part and parcel of the everyday life of an attorney, Romano, and his loneliness, his longing, his pain-wracked meetings and his faint-hearted attempts to right a wrong that cannot be righted. An acute, true-to-life book.
A significant literary achievement. With the masterly pen of a confident and skilled author, Ayelet Shamir leads her hero towards ethical and political decisions that few books dare to tackle.
I love your language, your plot and, I must confess, also the modicum of brutality, masculinity … I read The Burden of Proof as a one-course meal, from beginning to end, and a fine cut of steak it was.
Ayelet Shamir achieves something that few have achieved before her: She finds a convincing literary way to convey the reality of the thing that lies between Jews and Arabs as it is: a reality that stems from the diseased normalcy of ordinary men and women.
Nissim Calderon, Walla
Books such as The Burden of Proof advance her in the right direction … But Shamir’s prime achievement is the realistic shaping of a story that is true to its locality, and that follows a pattern that is almost mythological: scenes from the courthouse cafeteria, the smell of the secretary’s tuna salad in the office, the hero transferring alimony to his ex-wife via the bank’s Internet site. Shamir intelligently and efficiently balances the melodramatic with the realistic, the exotic and the ordinariness of Haifa, the psychological and the political contexts.
There is a limited group of Israelis who create prose and who aspire, or succeed, to produce this kind of literature and most of The Burden of Proof attains this level of professionalism, functionality and literary sensitivity.
The Burden of Proof is a superb book that hits the Zeitgeist right in the bullseye.