Ten Thousand Lovers

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Israel, 1970s. Lily, a young emigrant student exploring the wonders and terrors of her new land, finds the man of her dreams — Ami, a former actor. Handsome, intelligent, and exciting, but like his beautiful, disintegrating country, Ami has a terrible flaw — he is an army interrogator. As Ami and Lily's unexpected passion grows, so too does the shadow that hangs over them. They must face the unspeakable horrors of Ami's work and their uncertain future.

While set in the '70s, Ten...

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Overview

Israel, 1970s. Lily, a young emigrant student exploring the wonders and terrors of her new land, finds the man of her dreams — Ami, a former actor. Handsome, intelligent, and exciting, but like his beautiful, disintegrating country, Ami has a terrible flaw — he is an army interrogator. As Ami and Lily's unexpected passion grows, so too does the shadow that hangs over them. They must face the unspeakable horrors of Ami's work and their uncertain future.

While set in the '70s, Ten Thousand Lovers is a brilliant and terrifyingly contemporary tale of passion, suffering, and the transcending power of love.

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Editorial Reviews

The Sunday Herald
‘Ravel is a shrewd and compassionate storyteller’
The New York Times
Ten Thousand Lovers is both a curse and a lament. It is immensely to Edeet Ravel's credit that this novel, far from being a rant, balances deep bitterness with an abiding tenderness for the country she once called home. — Brigitte Frase
Library Journal
This is a passionate and troubling debut novel set in Israel in the late 1970s by the Israeli-born Canadian writer Ravel. The narrator is Lily, a middle-aged woman raised in Canada who now lives in London. She recounts the tale of a younger Lily living in Israel, where she was born, who has returned from Canada to study linguistics and literature at the Hebrew University. She meets Ami, an army interrogator, when he picks her up hitchhiking on a journey across Israel. A torrid romance ensues, interspersed with wonderful descriptions of the land of Israel. Lily's linguistic talents insert themselves into the tale, with her well-placed comments about Hebrew etymology complementing the narrative ably. Lily, a pacifist committed to evading her own military service, has understandable apprehensions about having a relationship with an interrogator. His even, kind manner when they are together troubles her-how does he treat Palestinian prisoners? Their friends are Arab Israelis, presenting more challenging situations. Ami finally finds the tension of his position too much to bear, and ensuing is a snapshot of what can occur in the heat of the escalating conflict. The title of the novel refers to the lives that have been lost and wasted in the years of warfare. Highly recommended for libraries and discussion groups.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An Israeli man and a Canadian woman find their love tested by his work in the face of growing Palestinian resistance during the 1970s. Narrator Lily moves back and forth between her life in present-day London and her romance in Israel a quarter-century ago. She was a 20-year-old student hitchhiking from Jerusalem to spend the weekend in Tel Aviv when she met handsome Ami, who drove an expensive car and owned a house. Lily was smitten, but horrified to learn that Ami, a noted actor until the sudden death of his two brothers, was now an interrogator for the army. He refused to use torture, deplored the Israelis' treatment of the Palestinians, and himself had an Arab-Israeli friend, but he was also patriotically aware of the country's perilous situation. As they drew closer, Lily told Ami about her troubled early life on an Israeli kibbutz-her parents were self-absorbed and the workers sadistic-before her family migrated to Canada. (Ravel, born and raised on a kibbutz, now lives in Quebec.) Between brief accounts of London and her ballet dancer daughter, Lily revisits her intense romance with Ami. She got pregnant, they married, and Ami left his job to write plays, but an emergency forced him to resume interrogating, with fatal consequences. Lily's narrative is both a poignant act of recall and a subtle commentary on the political situation as she analyzes the role the Hebrew language has played. A linguist by profession, she describes the consequences of using the word "land" instead of "state" (as in "the land of Israel"); traces how the original meaning of the word "terrorist" changed; and explains why Israelis prefer "territories" over "occupation." More a vivid portrait of a place thana searing love story, but thoughtful and timely nonetheless. Agent: Richard Curtis/Curtis Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060565626
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/14/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial Series
  • Edition description: First U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Edeet Ravel was born on an Israeli kibbutz and completed graduate studies in English at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the recipient of several writing awards, including the Norma Epstein Award for her poetry. She holds a Ph.D. in Jewish studies from McGill University and has taught creative writing, English literature, Holocaust studies and biblical exegesis. She has one daughter.

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Read an Excerpt

Ten Thousand Lovers

A Novel
By Edeet Ravel

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Edeet Ravel All right reserved. ISBN: 0060565624

Chapter One

A long time ago, when I was twenty, I was involved with a man who was an interrogator.

I met him on a Friday morning while hitchhiking from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. I was studying at the university in Jerusalem but I always spent weekends in Tel Aviv because Jerusalem shut down at weekends and there was nowhere to go and nothing to do. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, was at its liveliest on Friday nights and Saturdays. That was the weekend: Friday night and all day Saturday. Sunday was an ordinary working day, and I had to be back for an early class.

I was hitchhiking from the soldiers' hitchhiking booth, and I was embarrassed. The booth was supposed to be for soldiers only; a student with waist-length blond hair and wearing a short skirt would always get picked up before the soldiers did and they resented it. But that was the only place you could hitchhike from, because right after the booth the road began winding wildly around the dark green mountains of Jerusalem.

Usually I took a shared taxi to Tel Aviv on Fridays. The shared taxis were seven-passenger Mercedes sedans and were fairly comfortable if you had a window seat. But I was short on cash that morning. My roommate, a Russian immigrant, had asked me for a loan, and Ihad just enough left to get me through the weekend, so I walked to the booth, stationed myself as far from the soldiers as possible, stretched out my arm and pointed at the road with my index finger. Hitchhiking in Israel isn't deductive. It's not about letting the driver know what you need (which is what an upturned thumb would indicate) but about telling the driver what to do (which is what a finger pointing to the road indicates).

The soldiers began to mutter and grumble. I tried not to listen to them. I wanted to be liked.

A car stopped almost immediately, pulled up next to me. Three pissed-off soldiers left the booth and walked defiantly toward us.

"Tel Aviv?" I said.

The man in the car said, "Tel Aviv."

"You're sure?" I asked. Because the last time I'd hitchhiked, the driver lied about where he was going and left me stranded in the middle of nowhere.

"Ya-allah, what a paranoid. Hurry, get in before they kill us."

Behind us the soldiers were cursing. "Kusemak," they said.

"Let them in," I said, getting into the front seat.

"Well, unlock the back door."

I pulled up the lock and the three soldiers, two men and a woman, slid in gloomily. They all needed to get off at different places. One was headed for Petah Tikvah, one for Shfayim, andone for Hadera. They were still pissed off, but they couldn't really say anything now that they had what they wanted. Ya-allah is Arabic, of course. Ya is an Arabic particle, similar in usage to "O" in English (as in, "O Pyramus" or "O wall"). Placed in front of a name in everyday speech (e.g., ya-Asaf) it's emphatic and means something like "Yes, you, my friend, I'm talking to you."

You wouldn't think ya-allah would be a favored phrase among Israelis, but it is.You use it the way you'd use the expletory "God" or "Christ" in English.

Kusemak is Arabic too. There aren't a lot of swear words in Hebrew because for 1800 years Hebrew wasn't really a spoken language. When Hebrew was (artificially) revived, some swear words had to be borrowed. Kusemak means "cunt of your mother" in Arabic, but it isn't used as an insult in Hebrew: it's just used to express annoyance. In Arabic you wouldn't use that phrase lightly, but in Hebrew it's no big deal, because native Hebrew speakers don't really think about what it means.

- - -

The man said, "Ami," and I said, "Lily," and we shook hands sideways and said, "Pleased to meet you," or, literally, "very pleasant," which is what you say when you shake hands in Israel; you can't shake hands without saying na'im (pleasant) me'od (very). Everyone in Israel shook hands when I was there, even young people, even very cool young people. It was cool to shake hands (with a grim look on your face, though) when you met someone. I wonder whether it's still like that today.

It was a little awkward shaking hands in the car, and I could feel the contempt of the soldiers in the back, thinking they were watching a pick-up.

But Ami didn't say much after that. He only asked me whether I was in a rush, because he wanted to drive the soldiers as close as possible to their final destinations, which meant a lot of detours. I didn't mind. I liked going on drives, especially in expensive cars with bucket seats.

He dropped off the soldiers one by one: one at her home in Petah Tikvah, one at his home in Shfayim and the third at the turn-off to Hadera. The soldiers were no longer angry; they were grateful to be taken right to their door or to a convenient intersection. They thanked Ami enthusiastically and one even placed his hand on Ami's shoulder before he got out.

After the soldiers had gone, Ami said, "Student?"

"Yes."

"What are you studying?"

"Literature. Linguistics."

"Chomsky?"

"Yes, he's hot now."

"Our good friend Noam."

"Uh-huh."

"You're Canadian."

"How did you know?" Usually I was taken for an American.

"I'm good at accents."

"Canadians have the same accent as Americans."

"Not exactly."

"I don't believe you. You just guessed."

He laughed. "OK," he said.

"What do you do?" I asked him ...

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel
Copyright © 2003 by Edeet Ravel
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One

A long time ago, when I was twenty, I was involved with a man who was an interrogator.

I met him on a Friday morning while hitchhiking from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. I was studying at the university in Jerusalem but I always spent weekends in Tel Aviv because Jerusalem shut down at weekends and there was nowhere to go and nothing to do. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, was at its liveliest on Friday nights and Saturdays. That was the weekend: Friday night and all day Saturday. Sunday was an ordinary working day, and I had to be back for an early class.

I was hitchhiking from the soldiers' hitchhiking booth, and I was embarrassed. The booth was supposed to be for soldiers only; a student with waist-length blond hair and wearing a short skirt would always get picked up before the soldiers did and they resented it. But that was the only place you could hitchhike from, because right after the booth the road began winding wildly around the dark green mountains of Jerusalem.

Usually I took a shared taxi to Tel Aviv on Fridays. The shared taxis were seven-passenger Mercedes sedans and were fairly comfortable if you had a window seat. But I was short on cash that morning. My roommate, a Russian immigrant, had asked me for a loan, and I had just enough left to get me through the weekend, so I walked to the booth, stationed myself as far from the soldiers as possible, stretched out my arm and pointed at the road with my index finger. Hitchhiking in Israel isn't deductive. It's not about letting the driver know what you need (which is what an upturned thumb would indicate) but about telling the driver what to do (which is what a finger pointing to the road indicates).

The soldiers began to mutter and grumble. I tried not to listen to them. I wanted to be liked.

A car stopped almost immediately, pulled up next to me. Three pissed-off soldiers left the booth and walked defiantly toward us.

"Tel Aviv?" I said.

The man in the car said, "Tel Aviv."

"You're sure?" I asked. Because the last time I'd hitchhiked, the driver lied about where he was going and left me stranded in the middle of nowhere.

"Ya-allah, what a paranoid. Hurry, get in before they kill us."

Behind us the soldiers were cursing. "Kusemak," they said.

"Let them in," I said, getting into the front seat.

"Well, unlock the back door."

I pulled up the lock and the three soldiers, two men and a woman, slid in gloomily. They all needed to get off at different places. One was headed for Petah Tikvah, one for Shfayim, andone for Hadera. They were still pissed off, but they couldn't really say anything now that they had what they wanted. Ya-allah is Arabic, of course. Ya is an Arabic particle, similar in usage to "O" in English (as in, "O Pyramus" or "O wall"). Placed in front of a name in everyday speech (e.g., ya-Asaf) it's emphatic and means something like "Yes, you, my friend, I'm talking to you."

You wouldn't think ya-allah would be a favored phrase among Israelis, but it is.You use it the way you'd use the expletory "God" or "Christ" in English.

Kusemak is Arabic too. There aren't a lot of swear words in Hebrew because for 1800 years Hebrew wasn't really a spoken language. When Hebrew was (artificially) revived, some swear words had to be borrowed. Kusemak means "cunt of your mother" in Arabic, but it isn't used as an insult in Hebrew: it's just used to express annoyance. In Arabic you wouldn't use that phrase lightly, but in Hebrew it's no big deal, because native Hebrew speakers don't really think about what it means.

- - -

The man said, "Ami," and I said, "Lily," and we shook hands sideways and said, "Pleased to meet you," or, literally, "very pleasant," which is what you say when you shake hands in Israel; you can't shake hands without saying na'im (pleasant) me'od (very). Everyone in Israel shook hands when I was there, even young people, even very cool young people. It was cool to shake hands (with a grim look on your face, though) when you met someone. I wonder whether it's still like that today.

It was a little awkward shaking hands in the car, and I could feel the contempt of the soldiers in the back, thinking they were watching a pick-up.

But Ami didn't say much after that. He only asked me whether I was in a rush, because he wanted to drive the soldiers as close as possible to their final destinations, which meant a lot of detours. I didn't mind. I liked going on drives, especially in expensive cars with bucket seats.

He dropped off the soldiers one by one: one at her home in Petah Tikvah, one at his home in Shfayim and the third at the turn-off to Hadera. The soldiers were no longer angry; they were grateful to be taken right to their door or to a convenient intersection. They thanked Ami enthusiastically and one even placed his hand on Ami's shoulder before he got out.

After the soldiers had gone, Ami said, "Student?"

"Yes."

"What are you studying?"

"Literature. Linguistics."

"Chomsky?"

"Yes, he's hot now."

"Our good friend Noam."

"Uh-huh."

"You're Canadian."

"How did you know?" Usually I was taken for an American.

"I'm good at accents."

"Canadians have the same accent as Americans."

"Not exactly."

"I don't believe you. You just guessed."

He laughed. "OK," he said.

"What do you do?" I asked him ...

Ten Thousand Lovers. Copyright © by Edeet Ravel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

A long time ago, when I was twenty, I was involved with a man who was an interrogator.

So begins the story of Lily and Ami.

Lily, an Israeli-born Canadian, recalls her life in the 1970s as a student at Hebrew University's overseas student program in Jerusalem. While hitchhiking to Tel Aviv she meets Ami, a former actor. Handsome, intelligent, and exciting, he shares a dark side with his beautiful, disintegrating country. Although Lily is horrified to learn of his job as an army interrogator, she cannot stop the passion that grows between them. And soon she is witness to the heartbreaking struggle within Ami, and the struggle that tears apart the country she loves.

Juxtaposing her past with her present and the secrets hidden within the Hebrew language, Lily shares her timely and universal story of passion, suffering, and the transcending power of love.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the significance of the book's title?

  2. Ravel's chapters alternate between the story of Lily's past love, the story of her current life, and the history of the Hebrew language. Did you like this format?

  3. "The word 'Israeli' means everyone who is a citizen of Israel, including Arabs ... But when people say 'Israeli' they aren't usually thinking of Arabs living in Israel. Arabs are in the word, but not in the word. They are there, but not there." Can you think of other words that have the same kind of mystery attached to them?

  4. "People aren't good or bad. They just do good and bad things. Your only hope is to know which is which." Do you agree with Ami?

  5. Lily has a recurringdream about Ami and his blue number plate. What do you think this dream reflects about her relationship with Ami?

  6. "What's a border, I ask you? We're living in a world of mirrors ... We have no idea who's in, who's out." Do you think Ibrahim's statement applies to our world today? Why or why not?

  7. Do you understand why Ami works as an interrogator even though he hates the system? Or do you think he contributes to the problem?

  8. Bracha says, "It's easier to see things on stage than on the news. You can imagine you have some control." Have you ever felt more connected to a political or cultural issue because it was presented to you in an entertainment format? If so, discuss.

  9. What is the significance of Tufiq's keffiyeh around Ami's neck?

  10. Discuss the last chapter, specifically the meaning of the last sentence.

About the Author

Edeet Ravel was born on Kibbutz Sasa -- a communal settlement that was founded by North Americans in January 1949 but retained the name of the Arab village that had once been there.  When she was seven, she returned with her Canadian parents to Montreal. She is the author of the collection of prose poems called Lovers: A Midrash. She is active with Machsom Watch, a group of 60 women who go at peak hours to monitor check points. She lives in Canada with her teenage daughter.

 
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2004

    Excellent view of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    The book was an excellent representation of Israel in the 70's. Ravel brought historical events into the books tapestry -covering both Intifadas, the October War of 1973 and several others. She was able to give the reader a real view of how life could have been for both Israelis and their Palestinian counterparts. She drew the reader into the book, and made sure you did not want to stop reading. You develop attachments to the characters very quickly. Ravel did an awesome job, you will not want the book to be over when you are done.

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