These two novellas both deal with protagonists of North African descent, who are partly assimilated, yet feel separate from the mainstream. In the first, 18-year-old Yechiel, the youngest son of a large working family from Morocco, is about to be inducted into the army and is torn between excitement - he wants to prove himself "a man" like his older brother, Shiko - and a deep fear of the dangerous years ahead. Against this backdrop, his mother suddenly becomes pregnant at the age of fifty-two. The strong figure in the family, she insists on having the baby, and we follow the insidious drama that erupts as a result: Shiko`s contempt for their father whom he sees as a weakling, his attempt to dominate his mother and his humiliating attitude towards their grandmother play off against other power struggles that surface within the family as the narrator tries in vain to find his way.
In contrast to the birth at the end of the first novella, the central theme of the second is orphanhood. Forty-year-old Shmuel`s family is falling apart. His wife has suddenly disappeared, leaving their children motherless. Shmuel himself still longs for his lost home, Morocco, which he had to leave at age thirteen. He admits that he has never become part of his new country, and this inner split is exacerbated by Israeli reality, with its anxieties, terrorist bombings and existential threat. When Shmuel`s wife is finally found in hospital, it is implied that Shmuel abused her, but the actual facts remain vague. And we are left with the narrator - Shmuel`s - voice suggesting confusion and denial as the source of his violence. Ultimately, the narrators of these two stories appear as two sides of one coin, providing insight into a central aspect of Israeli society.
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