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Writing in the Dark, By David Grossman trans Jessica Cohen
Friday 20 November 2009
In August 2006, David Grossman signed, along with fellow writers Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, a statement calling for a ceasefire in Israel's summer campaign in southern Lebanon.
Two days later, his 20-year-old son Uri, a tank sergeant in the Israel Defence Force, died in that conflict. Consistent in their blazing integrity and compassion, these essays on the human and cultural cost to Israelis and their neighbours of living in "an almost-eternal disaster zone" were written between 1998 and November 2006. After his personal loss, Grossman's voice remains unwavering in clarity and courage.
As much a believer as ever in the "miracle" of Israel's existence, although one who now thinks that miracle deeply tarnished, he still begs its leaders to look at the Palestinian people "not only through the crosshairs of a rifle or a roadblock. You will see a nation no less tortured than we. A nation occupied and hopeless". The author of such landmark novels such as See Under: Love and Be My Knife also shows how his vocation as a novelist and his duty as a citizen converge. In both, he aims to demolish "the usually invisible barrier that separates me from any other person". Although the themes and moods of these exemplary pieces stay inevitably sombre, what uplifts is their unvanquished humanity. In the face of endless grief and fear, Grossman asks all parties to "pull ourselves back, snap out of the paralysis, and demand for ourselves, finally, the life that we deserve to live".
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