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The Tailor David Grossman

Israeli novelist accepts his lot

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David Grossman.(Wikipedia)

We learn in George Packer’s profile of David Grossman that the first novel to have a real impact on him was Sholom Aleichem’s Motl, Peysi the Cantor’s Son (actually, Grossman once cited it in an essay he published in Tablet Magazine’s predecessor, Nextbook.org). One sees Grossman as quite similar to the Motl we know from Fiddler on the Roof: Relatively simple, bordering on earnest; desirous of little beyond living a quiet family life; an actor in history only when history intrudes upon him.

Grossman was born an Israeli because his grandmother presciently fled to Palestine from Poland in the ‘30s; grew up a fairly uncritical Zionist, becoming left-wing only after meeting and falling in love with the woman who became his wife, Michal; and turned increasingly sharp in his critiques of “the situation”—the post-1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories—through first-hand experience, first as a soldier in Lebanon in the early ‘80s, then as a reporter. The family man’s family was disrupted by history during the Lebanon war of 2006, when his middle son, Uri, a soldier, was killed fewer than two days before the cease-fire.

Packer’s Grossman put me in mind of the recent Time cover story with the incredibly misleading title. If you read the article, you would find that Israelis would like little if anything more than peace, but in peace’s absence, they have tried to craft tidy lives for themselves, as anyone would. “Please remember, I’m a novelist,” Grossman tells Packer. “And what interests me most is the nuances of what goes on between two people, or between a person and himself.” Hence his newly translated novel, To the End of the Land, writes Packer, “is not an apolitical novel; it is antipolitical—a protest against history and its endless incursions into ‘this softness of life.’”

The tragedy, if I may resort to it, of Fiddler on the Roof is that many of the characters—and the tailor Motl is the prototypical member of the younger generation—would just as soon stay in Anatevka, despite its difficulties. Many people, like Grossman, don’t have a burning desire to live in history. But for many, including Grossman, history comes and finds them anyway.

The Unconsoled [New Yorker]
Related: Books That Have Read Me [Nextbook.org]
Earlier: Does Israel Really Not Care About Peace?

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And why is David Grossman boycotting the Ariel Cultural Center? Ariel will always be a part of Eretz Yisrael. Shame on him.

If you read any of David Grossman’s writings or heard him speak, I wonder if you could still make such a facile and shallow judgement of one of our greatest living authors who happens to love Israel deeply and whose principled actions and sacrifices — though he’d never use that word himself — are as a beacon illuminating a path of moral wisdom and compassion.

The comment about Grossman (and many, many other writers and artists) who have taken a moral stand against the Occupation makes me all the more impressed by his life’s work. For those who have yet to read it, his newly translated novel is a masterpiece of many joys and sorrows that transcends the hasty judgments of politics across the spectrum. Not to be missed!

Doug Corrigan says:

Why is it always good people who beat on themselves and finally drown in the quagmire of the ‘moral implications’ of their behavior. Bad people don’t waste their time on such maudlin stupidity. And anybody who holds any writer or artist up as a moral beacon, needs to have their head examined. God asks only that the ‘good’ people prevail. So get your whining heads out of the lower end of your alimentary canal and start PREVAILING against the EVIL people out there.

I’ve read some of his works in Hebrew and frankly am not so crazy about him. If he was a right-winger I can assure you that he would not be nearly so popular in the West. As far as his politics go, frankly who cares what he thinks? I don’t understand why he seems to think that he is some kind of prophet. If you look at some of the things that he and Amos Oz have said in the past they are just plain wrong. Their kind of thinking brought the Oslo process leading to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

“The tragedy, if I may resort to it, of Fiddler on the Roof is that many of the characters—and the tailor Motl is the prototypical member of the younger generation—would just as soon stay in Anatevka, despite its difficulties. Many people, like Grossman, don’t have a burning desire to live in history. But for many, including Grossman, history comes and finds them anyway.”

This is an excellent observation Mr. Tracy, still the novel stands on its own, and the authors’ ex cathedra views are not relevant to our understanding this book.

I am currently reading Grossman’s To the End of the Land (the original title in Hebrew was “A Woman Fleeing the News”).

It is an excellent book if a two long. It should have been 200 pages shorter.

I doubt many readers will finish the book.

I find myself coming back to your web-site only because you have lots of awesome insights and also you happen to be at this a while, which is very impressive and tells me you know your stuff.

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The Tailor David Grossman

Israeli novelist accepts his lot

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