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The Retrospective

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Winner, Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger

An aging Israeli film director has been invited to the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela for a retrospective of his work. When Yair Moses and Ruth, his leading actress and longtime muse, settle into their hotel room, a painting over their bed triggers a distant memory in Moses from one of his early films: a scene that caused a rift with his brilliant but difficult screenwriter—who, as it happens, was once Ruth’s lover. Upon their ...

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Overview

Winner, Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger

An aging Israeli film director has been invited to the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela for a retrospective of his work. When Yair Moses and Ruth, his leading actress and longtime muse, settle into their hotel room, a painting over their bed triggers a distant memory in Moses from one of his early films: a scene that caused a rift with his brilliant but difficult screenwriter—who, as it happens, was once Ruth’s lover. Upon their return to Israel, Moses decides to travel to the south to look for his elusive former partner and propose a new collaboration. But the screenwriter demands a price for it that will have strange and lasting consequences.

A searching and original novel by one of the world’s most esteemed writers, The Retrospective is a meditation on mortality and intimacy, on the limits of memory and the struggle of artistic creation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Yehoshua’s thoughtful but plodding new novel (after Friendly Fire), elderly Israeli director Yair Moses is a placeholder for the prolific author in a narrative that examines a life’s work. The book begins with a retrospective of Moses’s early films that forces him to relive his collaboration with screenwriter Shaul Trigano. A hotel room painting reminds Yair of a scene from their final collaboration, in which a nursing mother was to breastfeed a beggar. Ruth, the film’s star and Shaul’s soul mate, refused to play the scene, and Moses backed her decision, ending his collaboration with Shaul, as well as Shaul’s relationship with Ruth, who would become Yair’s occasional lover. She attends the retrospective with him, but their relationship is difficult, and watching old work forces the past to the fore. In the book’s second part, Yair revisits the locations of those early films and concern over Ruth’s health causes him to seek out Shaul. Their reunion sends Yair on a surreal penitential mission. In interviews, Yehoshua has mentioned Faulkner as an influence, and it shows. Some sentences are daunting in length and indicate the self-indulgence of the work as a whole. The author’s insights into realism and surrealism, religiousness and secularism, and the creative process deserve greater exploration. Agent: Marc Koralnik, the Liepman Agency (Switzerland). (Mar. 5)
From the Publisher

"Yehoshua's intelligent and refined novel. . . about an aging Israeli director reviewing both his films and his life. . . recalls once again Faulkner's famous dictum that 'the past isn't dead. It isn't even past.'"
Kirkus (starred review)

"Fascinating...beautiful."-Ha'ir, Israel

"An ambitious, engrossing, playfully testamentary novel" -- Moment

"With beautiful wordsmanship, Yehoshua entangles dignity and humiliation, repugnance and rapture, showing us how difficult they become to distinguish." --Booklist

“In his inimitable style, Yehoshua crafts a powerful allegory of modern Israeli Jewish identity.” – Ha’aretz

"A study of the contested sources of Israeli identity" -- Tablet

"Resolutely realistic" -- The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Yehoshua delivers a stunning explanation of the ethics of art...A fluid and absorbing novel of ideas; highly recommended." -- Library Journal, starred

"An elegant and graceful translation...intelligent and refined." -- Kirkus, starred

"Richly plotted" -- The Jewish Week

"Yehoshua is one of Israel’s most highly acclaimed writers, and ‘The Retrospective’ showcases the author at his finest. He offers a compelling study of character, and a powerful meditation on personal pain and loss, memory, regret, and atonement….a carefully observed portrait of a country in a perpetual state of conflict." -The Jewish Daily Forward

"Filled with detailed and realistic descriptions even as myth and memory are explored, The Retrospective is deeply satisfying, rich sto- rytelling from this outstand- ing Israeli writer." -- The Chicago Jewish Star

"Achieves an autumnal tone as he ruminates on memory’s slippery hold on life and on art." -- The New Yorker

Library Journal
If you’re an author of a half-century’s standing with a stack of prizes to your name, you, too, might want to write a book that probes the responsibilities of the artist. What’s intriguing here is that Yehoshua (A Woman in Jerusalem) makes his central character a film director, facilitating reflections on time and memory while highlighting the complexities of interpretation. Yair Moses has traveled to Santiago de Compostela—symbolically, a pilgrimage city—for a retrospective of his work. With him is Ruth, his longtime leading lady and the former lover of Trigano, the brilliant but difficult screenwriter from whom Moses is now estranged. Above their bed is a rendering of the legend Caritas Romana, in which an elderly prisoner is nursed at the breast by his daughter, which recalls the reason for the traumatic split between director and screenwriter. Trigano had written a similar scene for Ruth that she balked at playing and was infuriated when Moses sided with Ruth. As the story unfolds, Trigano comes off as not just a purist but rigid and monomaniacal—until a final moment when Yehoshua delivers a stunning explanation of the ethics of art.

Verdict A fluid and absorbing novel of ideas; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/17/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
An elegant and graceful translation of Yehoshua's 2011 Hesed Sefaradi, a novel about an aging Israeli director reviewing both his films and his life. Yair Moses and his longtime companion, Ruth, are visiting Santiago de Compostela for a three-day retrospective of his long career. It's appropriate that the screenings be in Santiago, for Moses is also making a pilgrimage of sorts, viewing early work he hasn't seen for 40 years. Ruth was his major actress in these early films and at the time, was the lover of Trigano, a brilliant screenwriter and former student of Moses--though they had a falling out about a delicate scene in a film and for years have barely talked to each other. Much of the first part of the novel is taken up by Moses' complex and sometimes bewildered reaction to his films from the '60s, for in those films, he had an "absurdist" aesthetic that he'd later gotten away from. He's both bemused and perplexed to see his films dubbed in Spanish, a language he doesn't understand. He's also fascinated almost to the point of obsession by a painting in his hotel room, a 17th-century Dutch work depicting an ancient Roman story of Cimon being nursed by his daughter Pera, a scene eerily reminiscent of a segment he'd cut from an earlier movie, the very scene that caused the break between Moses and his screenwriter. Upon his return to Israel, Moses feels the need to get in touch with the prickly Trigano, who feels he's largely responsible for Moses' early success. Yehoshua's intelligent and refined novel recalls once again Faulkner's famous dictum that "the past isn't dead. It isn't even past."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544157989
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/25/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 724,751
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


A. B. YEHOSHUA is one of Israel's preeminent writers. His novels include A Journey to the End of the Millenium, The Liberated Bride, and A Woman in Jerusalem, which was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2007. He lives in Haifa.
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