From the Publisher
"Clever, mischievous and humane, this is literary journalism in the proud tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and Joseph Roth."Amos Elon
“Sarna has elevated the human-interest story to an art form. His book sheds light on human suffering in general, and the Israeli experience in particular. These fascinating accounts reveal a truth that is stranger than fiction, and a good deal stronger as well.”The Dallas Morning News
“Incantory. . . .Sarna writes searingly of the Jewish experience. . . . He understands that horror often hides in the small details, the seemingly trivial. His story "Whoever Knew Shut Up or Died," in simply tracing the fate of an Israeli family trying to track down a baby lost in Poland during the horror, may be as unforgettable an expression of the numbing legacy of the Nazi murder of Jews as anything out there.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“Short, haunting and delicately drawn portraits, of settlers, soldiers, artists, [and] war heroes. [Sarna] touches on all the themes of Israel’s modern tragedy. Thoughtful and humane. . .A marvellous book”—The Times Literary Supplement
"Throughout my life I have written about Israeli traumas and have seen how new lives are built upon ruins," writes Israeli journalist Sarna, though these spare, wistful portraits focus more on loss and quiet despair than on rebuilding. In one essay, a Russian immigrant homesick for his native Leningrad gets into an auto accident. Bleeding and wild-eyed, he runs off into the desert and isn't heard from again. In another piece, a former Israeli paratrooper who grew up in an orphanage learns that his mother is alive and living with a Palestinian husband in Jordan-and confronts her in an astonishing encounter. Another man, who fled the Holocaust as child, explains that the worst terror he ever endured was actually in Israel-where he spent 20 years in a psychiatric hospital. For the most part, Sarna avoids imposing larger meanings or pat interpretations. When he does look for epiphanies, as in the title essay about an artist's recovery from depression, the pieces feel a bit strained and sentimental. Though the Palestinian conflict comes up in a few of the essays, it's usually the older tragedies of Jewish history that weigh heavily on the subjects: in one of the most moving, Sarna traces the downward spiral of a childhood acquaintance, a son of Holocaust survivors, who dies alone and virtually penniless in the United States. Together, these deftly written, often piercing stories form a complicated, sometimes contradictory tableau of Israeli life. (Nov. 1) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
An Israeli journalist explores the interweaving of history and relationships in essays (originally published in Hebrew in 1999) about Israelis who have experienced the odd and extraordinary. Having spent years writing about Israeli trauma and "how new lives are built on the ruins," Sarna, founder of the Peace Now movement, here focuses on the inhabitants of a world where history digs its claws deep into the present, and twists. An abandoned Israeli orphan who rose through the ranks of the army to become a decorated commander, worked for the Shin Bet (Israel's secret security agency), and led raids against Palestinian terrorist bases, finally finds that his mother is still alive-having fled Israel decades ago to live as an Arab in Jordan. Two children of emotionally destroyed Holocaust survivors grow safely to middle age, and then, separated by an ocean, kill themselves within two months of each other. A Russian immigrant who may be haunted by the landscape and culture of his mother country crashes his car in the desert and runs away from his companions to disappear for good without a trace. In a parched wilderness near Beersheva, a place "poor as a curse," a Bedouin boy kills his father-and Sarna argues eloquently for pardoning the parricide. The author has an uncanny gift for rooting out ineffable misery and rendering it visible to the reader, who can become acquainted with what it might have been like to be a seven-year-old Polish Jewish boy when the Germans rolled into the country; or how it might feel to be a Jew in Kurdistan living through first the Turkish, then the British, and then the Iraqi regimes; or what one might think under enemy fire in the middle of a minefield, surroundedby ripped and bleeding comrades, you the only hope of anyone's survival. Bleak, blistering, beautiful.