Five Seasons

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In the autumn, Molkho's wife dies and his years of loving attention are ended. But his newfound freedom is filled with the erotic fantasies of a man who must fall in love. Winter sees him away to the operas of Berlin and a comic tryst with a legal advisor who has a sprained ankle. Spring takes him to Galilee and an underage Indian girl. Jerusalem in the summer presents him with an offer from an old classmate to seduce his infertile wife. And the next autumn it is Nina (if only they spoke the same language!), ...
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In the autumn, Molkho's wife dies and his years of loving attention are ended. But his newfound freedom is filled with the erotic fantasies of a man who must fall in love. Winter sees him away to the operas of Berlin and a comic tryst with a legal advisor who has a sprained ankle. Spring takes him to Galilee and an underage Indian girl. Jerusalem in the summer presents him with an offer from an old classmate to seduce his infertile wife. And the next autumn it is Nina (if only they spoke the same language!), whose yearning for her Russian home leads Molkho back to life.
Five Seasons is a finely nuanced, unabashedly realistic novel that provides immense reading pleasure.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If not as kinetic and intricate as A Late Divorce , the author's daring treatment of nine frenzied days in the life of a troubled Israeli family, Yehoshua's latest novel reconfirms his status as a shrewd analyst of domestic ordeals. Neatly and leisurely divided into ``five seasons'' following the death of the protagonist's wife of 30 years, this is a genuine and elegant portrait of a widower, Molkho, a middle-aged Sephardi, like his creator, and his heartfelt grief and painfully awkward readjustment to life as a single person. A passive, frugal civil servant obsessed with bodily functions and malfunctions, who diligently and celibately cared for his wife through a long illness, Molkho is a straight man, vulnerably ripe for absurd romantic entanglements. He is variously infatuated with or fancied by the barren, fey cast-off wife of a ``born-again'' Orthodox Jew; an aggressive lawyer, who is senior to him on the bureaucratic ladder; an Indian girl in a development town; and a Russian emigre Molkho helps to repatriate. Although much here is universally applicable, Yehoshua continues to advance his vision of Israel as the necessary, if chaotic and problematic, receptacle of the scattered remnants of world Jewry. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Among contemporary Israeli novelists, none infuses realistic fiction with a more subtle mixture of comedy and pathos than Yehoshua. Molkho, the middle-aged, newly widowered protagonist, earns easy ridicule: He is an unimaginative petty bureaucrat, a cultural philistine, and a conversational dullard, and his misadventures with women in Israel, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin are hilarious. Confronted with the challenge of freedom, Molkho is hobbled by his stultifying ordinariness. But in the five seasons following the autumn of Molkho's wife's death, the reader's mockery, leavened by compassion and understanding, transforms (without a trace of sentimentality) to affection, even, perhaps, love. Molkho may be a clod but in him each of us will find common clay. Arthur Waldhorn, City Coll., CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385231305
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/23/1988
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 368

Meet the Author


An author, journalist, and internationally reknowned, awarding-winning translator, Hillel Halkin has translated several novels from Hebrew into English.
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Read an Excerpt

Five Seasons

By A. B. Yehoshua

Harvest Books

Copyright © 2004 A. B. Yehoshua
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0156010895

MOLKHO'S WIFE DIED at 4 A.M., and Molkho did his best to mark the moment forever, because he wished to be able to remember it. And indeed, thinking back on it weeks and even months later, he was convinced that he had managed to refine the instant of her passing (her passing? he wasn't sure the word was right) into something clear and vivid containing not only thought and feeling but also sound and light, such as the maroon glow of the small electric heater, the greenish radiance of the numbers on the digital clock, the yellow shaft of light from the bathroom that cast large shadows in the hallway, and perhaps, too, the color of the sky, a pinkish ivory set off by the deep obscurity around it. He would have liked to think he recalled the dark morning sky because it added a stirring, elemental touch of nature, but he could not be sure of it, any more than he could be of the whisper of the wind and the rain; yet he was certain that there had been music- yes, real music he himself had turned on hesitatingly but convinced that if she wished to hear anything at all as she died, it was the music she had cared for so much in those last months when reading had become such a chore for her. Like the radio operator of a military vehicle heading into battle, she would adjust the small stereo earphones in the dead, painful twilight hours between the visits of her friends, her talks with her children, and her various treatments and pills; choose one of the cassettes by her bedside; and switch on the tape machine. She discussed this music with him and even once hinted that when the end came (so they referred to her death), she would like him to play some of it for her: if he saw it wasn't too much for her, she said, he should let her have music- and he was happy to be able to oblige, for she had trained him well during those last months and he had learned to do exactly as she told him, taking everything with the utmost seriousness. And so now, too, he remembered to flip the switch, though he didn't dare put on the earphones but rather left them dangling by her head as he cranked up the bed, so that from the two pillows came the sound of wind instruments, distant and muffled but assertive, the solemn, aerial flourish of the breathless, staccato hunting horns in the Mahler symphony that he had inserted in the deck three days ago, for though he did not know if its throbbing strains were really the most suitable, he was afraid to surprise her with anything new, no matter how peaceful and simple.

It was thus that he remembered the moment of her death, by its exact bars, the repetition of which could recreate at will that final scene in the silence of the night. He had no way of knowing which of the undulating notes had entered her consciousness as she breathed her last, no way (nor did he seek to find one) of telling if she heard them at all. Never taking his eyes off her, ardent with pity and zeal, he had let himself be led through a black forest in the light of a damp, chill dawn, struggling past heavy branches toward a lit valley or hollow and the soft, tawny doe that stood there, pursued and yet summoned by the throbbing horns.

Just then her breathing had stopped. He didn't touch her, afraid to wake her or hurt her- and yet that was it, the moment she never would know, though of all the moments in the world it was the one most intimately and individually hers, presided over by that invisible hand that tells us thus far and no further. He had never thought much about such things as life after death or reincarnation, had indeed thanked her mentally for shying away from all that mysticism, whose dark unreason would only have been swept away anyhow by her aggressive, bitter intellectuality. It suited him perfectly to be alone with her now, alert, quiet, and wholly concentrated, with no one to distract him or share his thoughts with and, above all, with no doctor or nurse to try some new tube or drug, but rather all by himself, exclusively in control and in charge- alone with the lights, alone with the sounds, alone with Death, the same Death he once had imagined in the form of the black shot put he was made to throw in gym class, the ball of Death that had rolled into her room several days ago and lain silently beneath the furniture or the bed, despite all his efforts to heave it back even a few feet. That Death was now right by him, astonishingly piercing and bursting forth from her at once, while his only thought was to keep her from feeling any pain- yes, that had been his sole mission in recent months, to ease her pain, so that even now, at the last moment, a whole battery of remedies and devices was available for the task: cranks, handles, crutches, a wheelchair, a washbasin, a fan, medicines, drugs, an oxygen mask, an entire field hospital in one small room, all to lessen her pain, all to help her soul exit gently.

Yes, always, even when sitting at his desk, even when walking in the street, erect, slow, and preoccupied, his head already gray yet his body still youthful, even when eating or sleeping, he had thought all the time of her pain and how to c with it, had listened continually to her disease-eaten, scalpel-scarred, drug-swollen hulk of a body, which, stewing in the inflorescence of its poisons, had lain for weeks on end in the same giant, ultramodern hospital bed standing like a chariot in the middle of the room, with its jellylike water mattress and its cranks, bars, and wheels, in the hope that her last journey might take place at home and that all those ministering to it- her mother, her children, her family, her friends, and above all, he himself, its general manager- might get her safely past her rampaging illness to the competent quietude of an inevitable death. Lying next to her like a loyal staff officer on the plain, narrow bed that had replaced the old king-size one they had shared since their marriage until the day it was moved out of the room, half beside and half beneath her, he had listened intently, on call to fight her pain, sleeping in snatches, waking up and dozing off so quickly that it seemed to happen automatically, though not without dreams- no, not without dreams. For even on that last, fearful night, he had suddenly dreamed that he was a child again and that someone was whistling for him, looking for him in some street or field, perhaps his wife, perhaps someone like her. At once he awoke as usual, only to realize that the sound, which had frightened him by not stopping and had made him sit up in bed, was simply the wheezing of her breath.

THIS TIME, though, he was not mistaken, and in full possession of himself, he acted sensibly and calmly, careful not to repeat his error of three days ago when, awoken by the same wheezing in the middle of the night, he had agitatedly sought to do something and had called out to her, sitting her up in bed when she answered, hugging her and trying to wake her, giving her tea and then wine, even phoning his elder son to come at once from his college dormitory. Together, in the hours before dawn, they had made her put on her glasses and get out of bed to wash her mastectomized body, unthinkingly forcing more life on her by propping her almost upright against the pillows, pale, groggy, and breathing weakly as she listened to the news and the morning jingles on the radio. Only later, when her mother and the doctor dropped by and he told them with pride what had happened, did he understand from their silence and lowered, averted looks that they quite failed to see the point of it.

There followed two excruciating days in which the vestige of
the death he had repelled caused her great pain. And yet she had chatted, listened to music, and even laughed when shown old home movies of their youngest son as a chubby little tot rolling in the sand on the beach. Why, her laughter is a gift, Molkho thought, scanning her face greedily; I've raised her from the underworld! Does she have any idea where she's been, any memory or keepsake from there? He even enjoyed it greatly when she argued with him about some trivial matter. It's like quarreling with a ghost, he thought- and indeed, that evening she lost consciousness and then became delirious, so that he gave her a shot of morphine in case the pain started up again. But it didn't. She simply faded rapidly, and he disconnected the telephone by her bed and took her friends' calls in the next room, repeating the same bulletin over and over with infinite patience while her old mother sat with her through the next day, moistening her lips from time to time and trying to get her to talk, though in fact she would not even eat, pushing away the food she had always swallowed heartily until now.

In the evening his mother called from Jerusalem and friends arrived, all walking about on tiptoe- but eyelids fluttering, she heard them and knew who they were, now and then murmuring a word or phrase that assumed for them all an intense and ceremonial significance. At exactly 7 P.M. Death appeared in her hand with a fanning, uncontrollable tremor and they all knew the end was near, that it was imminent; yet, though several people offered to spend the night with him, he stubbornly, firmly refused. "There's time yet," he said, believing his own words. "We have to save our strength." And he sent them all home, even her mother, who didn't want to go, even the student to his dormitory. Later, his daughter arrived from her army base, sat up with the dying woman a while, and then went off to her room, too fatigued to stay awake any longer. His younger son, a high school boy, was in his room too, studying for a history exam, and at ten o'clock Molkho turned off the lights, collected the scattered sections of the newspaper, replaced the books on their shelves, and consulted the calendar, on which the next two days' visits were already written down, purposely staggered to keep too many people from coming at once and exhausting her. At midnight he put on his pajamas and lay down in his bed beneath hers. Soon afterward his son left his room, passed hesitantly by the open doorway, afraid to enter, and asked if he was needed. "No," said Molkho. "Go to bed."

Then he, too, dozed off, only to awaken at 3 A.M. with the knowledge that he would sleep no more that night. He rose, fiddled with the heater, boiled water to sterilize a hypodermic that he knew would not be needed, and drank the last of the cognac from the little bottle they had bought on the airplane two years ago on their last trip to Europe. His wife was restless. "What, what did you say?" he called softly to her when she murmured something, but there was no answer. He went over to her bed, arranged the blankets, and even decided to raise the bars, as though she were a baby who might fall out; then he went to the living room and sat down in the darkness on the couch, inviting Death to come and finish what it had begun. Suddenly, though, remembering the music, he went back and switched on the tape machine. How odd it was, he thought, that after so many years of so many doctors and nurses, now, at the moment of her death, there was no one left but himself- yet he felt sure he had room in him even for Death, and sticking his hands beneath the blankets, he grasped her two feet, which were soft, smooth, and still there. Once again she murmured something that sounded like "Isn't that so?" "What?" he asked gently, bending down to her after a moment. "Isn't what so?"

Copyright © 1987 by A. B. Yehoshua

Translation copyright © 1989 by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday
Dell Publishing Group, Inc. and Williams Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

This is a translation of Molkho.


Excerpted from Five Seasons by A. B. Yehoshua Copyright © 2004 by A. B. Yehoshua. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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