Mordantly funny and deeply moving, this award-winning novel about life in a West Bank settlement has been hailed as “brilliant” (The New York Times Book Review) and “The Great Israeli Novel [in which] Gavron stakes his claim to be Israel’s Jonathan Franzen” (Tablet).
On a rocky hilltop stands Ma’aleh Hermesh C, a fledgling outpost of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. According to government records it doesn’t exist; according to the military it must be defended. On this contested land, Othniel Assis—under the wary gaze of the Palestinians in the neighboring village—lives on his farm with his ever-expanding family. As Othniel cheerfully manipulates government agencies, more settlers arrive, and a hodge-podge of shipping containers and mobile homes takes root.
One steadfast resident is Gabi Kupper, a former kibbutz dweller who savors the delicate routines of life on the settlement. When Gabi’s prodigal brother, Roni, arrives penniless on his doorstep with a bizarre plan to sell the “artisanal” olive oil from the Palestinian village to Tel Aviv yuppies, Gabi worries his life won’t stay quiet for long. Then a nosy American journalist stumbles into Ma’aleh Hermesh C, and Gabi’s worst fears are confirmed. The settlement becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal, facing its greatest threat yet.
This “indispensable novel” (The Wall Street Journal) skewers the complex, often absurd reality of life in Israel. Grappling with one of the most charged geo-political issues of our time, “Gavron’s story gains a foothold in our hearts and minds and stubbornly refuses to leave” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
This memorable novel by Gavron (Almost Dead) follows the fate of a small, not-quite-legitimate Israeli settlement in the West Bank and its denizens. Othniel Assis and a few associates founded Ma'aleh Hermesh C in the recent past, both despite and with the aid of various Israeli bureaucracies. While the primary story line charts the course of the settlers' fight against the inevitable barrage of eviction notices and subsequent reversals, Gavron moves beyond simple political farce by weaving together the stories, both simple and complex, of individual characters. He particularly focuses on the kibbutznik brothers, the spiritual Gavriel Nehushtan and businessman Roni Kupper, who arrive at Ma'aleh Hermesh C at different times and in different circumstances. "Longing is the engine of the world," one character says. Indeed, Gavron's novel is marked by its great depth of feeling and its disparate themes, which are united by the longing of its characters.