Much is expected of Yonatan Lehavi. He is a brilliant Torah scholar and a great future is foreseen for him. But like his father before him, he gives up this career for the woman he loves, Alyssa. He desires only to nurture his youthful marriage and to overcome his misgivings about his faith. However, this fragile togetherness—the feeling of “just the two of us”—is threatened by his two brothers. One of them, Micha suffers from manic attacks, and he manages to drag Yonatan into his deranged projects. The other, Iddo, who died of cancer in childhood, still casts a long shadow over the present. And over it all hovers his father whose life, he feels, predicts a bleak future. What is it that drives this two-generation story, with its paternal abandonment and the guilt that demands reparation? Thus the book tosses its characters between a sense of simple coincidence in their afflictions and the possibility that all is predestined by a contaminated heredity.
With sensitivity and power, Nir shapes a subject, a character, and a conflict that are rare in contemporary Israeli fiction. He depicts a hero torn between different worlds, growing up in the often conflicting shadows of militarism, religiosity, nationalism, and family.
Elhanan Nir has published two books of poetry and two philosophical works, for which he has received the Prime Minister’s Prize and the Ramat Gan Prize. Just the Two of Us is his first novel, for which he received a grant from the Posen Foundation.
A fine book, aesthetic and decidedly impressive.
Nir presents a number of lifelike and original characters.
Literary critic Aryeh Glassner