Finalist for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize
A disgraced Israeli politician comes face to face with the man who denounced him to the KGB and sent him to the Gulag.
These incandescent pages give us one momentous day in the life of Baruch Kotler, a disgraced Israeli politician. When he refuses to back down from a contrary but principled stand regarding the West Bank settlements, his political opponents expose his affair with a mistress decades his junior. He and the fierce young Leora flee the scandal for Yalta, where he comes face to face with the former friend who denounced him to the KGB almost forty years earlier.
In a mere twenty-four hours, Kotler must face the ultimate reckoning, both with those who have betrayed him and with those whom he has betrayed, including a teenage daughter, a son facing his own ethical dilemmas in the Israeli army, and the wife who stood by his side through so much.
In prose that is elegant, sly, precise and devastating, David Bezmozgis has rendered a story for the ages, an inquest into the nature of fate and consequence, love and forgiveness.
Bezmozgis's second novel (after The Free World) is a beautifully written exploration of the role fate can play in the finer distinctions between a heroic life and a villainous one. Baruch Kotler is a Soviet Jewish dissident who, after he is freed from prison, becomes a celebrated Israeli politician. When scandal forces Kotler to flee Israel for the Crimea with his mistress, Leora, a coincidence leads him to the door of Chaim Tankilevich, the man whose testimony led to Kotler's imprisonment in a Russian jail 39 years ago. With all the makings of a standard revenge tale and told in Bezmogis's trademark direct prose, the story resists oversimplification. Kotler and Tankilevich, now advanced in years, both suffered after Kotler's trial, and, though the trial is well behind them, both are now desperate in different ways. As the two men struggle with their past, Kotler contends with the scandal he fled, the family he left behind, and his son, Benzion, who aspires to be a dissident despite his now age-tempered father's advice against it. Though the action is fixed largely in one location, Bezmozgis's novel feels vast, its pages heavy with the complicated debts we owe one another, which are impossible to leave behind.