New York Times Notable Book: A story of six generations of a Jewish family, by an author Saul Bellow called “one of Israel’s world-class writers.”
In this novel, a winner of both the National Jewish Book Award and the first Israeli Literature Prize, A. B. Yehoshua weaves a deeply affecting family saga and an portrait of Jewish life over the past two centuries.
The story moves backward through time, unfolding over the course of five conversations. On a kibbutz in the Negev in 1982, a student describes her strange meeting with her boyfriend’s father, Judge Gavriel Mani. On German-occupied Crete in 1944, a Nazi soldier recounts his attempts to hunt down the Mani family. In Jerusalem in 1918, a Jewish lawyer in the British army briefs his commanding officer on the forthcoming trial of the political agitator Yosef Mani. In a village in southern Poland in 1899, a young doctor reports back to his father on his travels, and on his sister’s romance with Dr. Moshe Mani. And in Athens in 1848, Avraham Mani reveals the heartbreaking tale of the death of his son, Yonef, in Jerusalem.
Alfred Kazin hailed Mr. Mani as “one of the most remarkable pieces of fiction I have ever read.” Named as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, it is both an absorbing tale and a powerful statement about family, faith, and the weight of history.
Translated from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin
The Israeli writer's previous novels ( A Late Divorce ; Five Seasons ) were critically acclaimed in this country; here he offers another richly textured, provocative work. An account of six generations of the Manis, a Jewish family living in the Middle East, the book is arranged in the form of five ``conversations,'' with the speech of only one of the two speakers present on the page. From 1982, the narrative moves backward to 1848, tracing dark domestic dramas occurring against the backdrop of historical events. Speakers--each with a strong, distinctive voice--include a contemporary Israeli woman, a Nazi soldier stationed in Crete during WW II, a British Jewish soldier in Palestine after WW I, a Jewish doctor in Galicia and a Jewish merchant in Athens. Spinning a cat's cradle of complex relationships, Yehoshua reaches beyond realism to the realms of mystery, coincidence and fate. His prose is simple and clear, rising to passages of lyricism and eloquence, as he gradually discloses the tragedy that haunts every generation of the Mani family: a succession of self-destructive, suicidal men and of fathers who die young, leaving emotionally needy children. Hints of a dread secret accrete through the narrative, to be revealed at the close. Yet the novel's message speaks to the indomitable spirit that keeps families alive.