21 October 2007

Edeet Ravel, Ten Thousand Lovers, 2003

A book that draws you in, conceivably because of the central story of a curiously unusual relationship between a pacifist Israeli student and an Israeli army interrogator of Palestinian detainees, therefore the divide to be crossed here is not racial but one defined by tolerance for political violence. Despite its 1970s setting this is contemporary left-wing Israeli fiction, anti-occupation of the Territories, and clearly informed by Edeet Ravel’s own experiences: this could conceivably be autobiography, so naturally does the dialogue flow and the situations resonate with their surroundings. Ten Thousand Lovers is less politically defined than I expected, but none the worse for that; the political dimensions take a long time to come to the fore and are felt mostly as an undercurrent beneath the surface layers, playing a necessary second fiddle to the developing relationship of Lily and Ami. The final explanation of the book’s title and also its political resonance is a shining moment, finally defining the enigmatic character of the interrogator Ami and giving the book some subtle pacifist credentials. Altogether a good read, though necessarily sentimental in parts.   PY

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