Snapshots

Snapshots

by Michal Govrin
     
 

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From one of Israel's most celebrated writers, an ambitious and heartbreaking novel-winner of Israel's Akum Prize for the Book of the Year-that examines through one woman's life the Jewish story and the state of Israel in the most intimate way possible.

Ilana Tsuriel was a beautiful, brilliant Israeli intellectual and architect, the estranged wife of a prominent

Overview

From one of Israel's most celebrated writers, an ambitious and heartbreaking novel-winner of Israel's Akum Prize for the Book of the Year-that examines through one woman's life the Jewish story and the state of Israel in the most intimate way possible.

Ilana Tsuriel was a beautiful, brilliant Israeli intellectual and architect, the estranged wife of a prominent Holocaust scholar and the daughter of a legendary founding Zionist. At the beginning of Snapshots, she dies in a tragic car wreck, leaving her husband, Alain, to piece together the woman he thought he knew from the documents she left behind. Snapshots is assembled from her notes, photos, and drawings, which reveal Ilana's passionate, turbulent, wandering life of love and creativity around the capitals of the world. They portray a woman torn between her life in the United States and Israel; a woman who, during the first Gulf War when missiles were falling on Tel Aviv, struggled with the desire to protect her family yet still engage herself and her children with her homeland. They also uncover a secret, troubled love affair with a Palestinian man, a daughter's efforts to come to terms with her father's weighty legacy, and plans to build a "Utopian Monument" for peace in the history-laden hills of Jerusalem.

The result is a whirling, wrenching portrait of a woman grappling with every element of her identity, at the center of a novel that has already been feted with prizes and celebrated as a masterwork of contemporary Israeli literature.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Israeli novelist Govrin (The Name) juxtaposes one women's difficult search for personal and professional fulfillment against modern Israel's quagmire of political and social issues. Ilana Tsuriel's accidental death at the book's opening quashes her vision for a revolutionary architecture project in Jerusalem. The project borrows concepts about land and property ownership from biblical texts and is intended to promote peace in a city perpetually in turmoil. Left behind are her journal notes, photographs and sketches. As the title suggests, Ilana's work and private life unfold, often in dialogue with her deceased Zionist father, in a patchwork of musings justifying her personal and professional choices; assessing her father's role in Israel's independence; considering her scholar husband's Holocaust obsessions; finding terms for the perpetual clash between Israelis and Palestinians. She also has multiple affairs, not the least significant of which is with a Palestinian involved with her Jerusalem project. While many observations are vivid and immediate, the vast amount of territory Govrin tries to cover dissipates the narrative and Ilana herself, whose motivations never completely crystallize. (Oct.)

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The San Francisco Chronicle
Absorbing and affecting.
The Forward
A mutiny of clashing voices, each with its own version of past, present and future...Snapshots becomes a symposium on Jewish history and on the future of the State of Israel, conducted by four radically different voices.
Kirkus Reviews
A sophisticated Paris-based architect faces emotional and professional obstacles when she returns to her native Israel with her two young sons to work on a controversial project. Willingly abandoning her troubled homeland for a successful life in France and America, Llana Tsuriel cannot, it seems, get Israel out of her blood. The daughter of Aaron Tsuriel, a famous Russian-born "pioneer" who helped found the Jewish state, she is married to Holocaust scholar Alain Greenenberg and also carrying on an affair with Palestinian theater director Sayyid, with whom she is working. Their joint project is a radical "anti-memorial" in Jerusalem designed to foster cooperation and understanding by creating symbolic "huts" meant to be dismantled and rebuilt every seven years by multinational residents. So with ambitious plans to break ground on the structures and deal with her late father's personal papers, she enthusiastically heads to the Middle East with her little boys, David and Jonathan, leaving an increasingly distant Alain to his own work. Unfortunately, just as she arrives in Israel, the first Gulf War breaks out, jeopardizing the fate of the memorial and angering Alain, who insists she return to Europe with their children. She remains in Jerusalem, riding out the war, and trying to come to grips with her father's legacy and her own ambivalence over the contrasting Zionist and leftist ideals that have shaped her life. Told through diary entries addressed predominantly to her father, Llana's story is mostly an internal struggle, touching on art, sex, love and history, with a healthy portion of guilt over some of the choices she has made. A literary prize-winner in Israel, Govrin's second effort(The Name, 1998) is most accessible and satisfying in the passages in which Llana and her neighbors try to give the boys a "normal" existence during wartime. Those scenes have an immediacy lacking in the somewhat self-indulgent and dense musings that make up the majority of Llana's observations. A complex and layered personal/political novel perhaps best appreciated by those with an existing knowledge and interest in geopolitics.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594483349
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
10/07/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

David Shapiro
This brave and complex work must be read by everyone still lured by the hope of peace.

Meet the Author

Michal Govrin is a writer and poet, and an award-winning director of experimental theater. She was born in Tel Aviv. Her father was one of Israel's first pioneers, and her mother survived the Holocaust. Govrin received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris and now teaches at the School of Visual Theater in Jerusalem and is a part-time writer-in-residenceat Rutgers University.

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