Homesick

From June ’10 Spotlight: Eshkol Nevo came to Chicago recently to read from his award-winning 2004 novel Homesick. Just released in English, Homesick is the first offering in the new “Hebrew Literature Series” published by Dalkey Archive Press (in collaboration with the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature in Bnei Brak, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, and the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign).

Amir studies psychology in Tel Aviv. Noa studies photography in Jerusalem. Young and passionate, they decide to rent a small apartment together in Maoz Ziyon. What they want is a love nest between the poles; what they get is a community. In the course of 374 pages, Nevo deconstructs Maoz Ziyon culturally, historically, politically and sociologically, but also emotionally, romantically, and sexually, and he deliberately leaves things unresolved at the end to create “a bomb that keeps ticking in the heart of the reader.”

“You don’t get answers,” he explained when I saw him at the Chicago Cultural Center, “but you can get your boundaries broadened. In Israel, for my readers, ‘the other’ was a Palestinian construction worker, but in Europe, and maybe in American, ‘the other’ is the Israeli.”

Since I began my “Tzivi’s Spotlight” columns in 2005, I have read dozens of books, including novels by world-renown Jewish authors like Amos Oz and Philip Roth, but I cannot think of a contemporary novel that moved me more deeply than Homesick. “Homesickness is a global phenomenon,” Nevo said. “Everyone is homesick nowadays.”

The day after I saw him, Nevo met with students at UIUC. Asked if he considers his book life-affirming, Nevo said: “For me, it’s very hopeful, with a lot of human understanding going on, human warmth. For the reader, it’s a Rorschach Test.” To watch the one hour video from this wide-ranging dialogue, visit: http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/book/?GCOI=15647100077420

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