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Ten Thousand Loversby Edeet Ravel
Synopses & Reviews
A long time ago, when I was twenty, I was involved with a man who was an interrogator.
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).
Thesoldiers 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."
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 toexpress 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?"
"What are you studying?"
"Yes, he's hot now."
"Our good friend Noam."
"How did you know?"Usually I was taken for an American.
"I'm good at accents."
"Canadians have the same accent as Americans."
"I don't believe you. You just guessed."
He laughed. "OK," he said.
"What do you do?" I asked him ...
"The tragedy here is both anticipated and inevitable, but the textured personal story rises above its political context like a melody soaring beyond the steady rhythm pulsing below it." Booklist
"More a vivid portrait of a place than a searing love story, but thoughtful and timely nonetheless." Kirkus Reviews
"This is a passionate and troubling debut novel....Highly recommended." Library Journal
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.
About the Author
Edeet Ravel was born and raised on a Marxist Israeli kibbutz and now lives in Quebec, Canada. Ten Thousand Lovers is her first novel. She holds a Ph.D. in Jewish studies.
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