Monday, May 2, 2016

A Work of Staggering Genius

Helen Elliott, "a Melbourne writer and journalist," reviews Israeli novelist Nir Baram's novel, Good People in The Australian of April 30.

She begins thus:

"How would I have behaved in Adolf Hitler's Germany or Joseph Stalin's Russia? It's the question we ask at some time in our lives. But can truth be involved? If we were not physically there within the intimate context of the time how could we have any idea if we would be one of the good or one of the evil? We would hope we would have the gravity and courage of a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but maybe we would be, well, just ourselves. Israeli novelist Nir Baram is interested in good and evil in exceptional times when evil strides unchecked across the earth."

What I can't understand, though, is why Baram had to go back to Adolf and Uncle Joe for a novel on "evil striding unchecked across the land"?

Surely, any Israeli regime, from David Ben-Gurion's to Benjamin Netanyahu's, would have furnished ample scope for an Israeli writer to explore this subject?

Be that as it may, Elliott concludes her review with the following upbeat assessment... and one helluva silly question:

"This is not a flawless novel but it is tremendous. I read it in two sittings and I learned a lot. How does a man in his early 30s know how to write like this?"

Well, he is Israeli, isn't he?

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