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Picnic Grounds: A Novel in Fragmentsby Oz Shelach
Synopses & Reviews
Part reportage, part parable, part excavation of history, this jigsaw puzzle of compelling tales constitutes an exile’s nostalgic tour into Israel’s culture of denial. Captivating in its beguiling, seeming simplicity, Picnic Grounds is a novel built from the layers of overlapping lives and stories, much like the villages and cities of Israel are constructed from a culture superimposed over the palimpsest of history. Landscape, language, and the manufacture of knowledge are deconstructed by a unique new voice, writing in a language that is not quite English, from a life that is anything but post-colonial.
Oz Shelach was born in West Jerusalem in 1968 and has been a journalist and editor for Israeli radio and magazines. He currently lives in New York.
"Shelach's prose has an elegant precision borne of his journalistic activities.... [his] ironic understatement provides an eloquent indictment of the ongoing situation in Palestine." San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Picnic Grounds is a forceful debut whose fragmentary form lends it the feel of a scrapbook Kodak moments from a society with its guard down and its righteousness momentarily disabled." Philip Herter, St. Petersburg Times
"Oz Shelach has managed, by pinpointing minutes, to evoke hours, days, years, a whole history. The very pauses in his extraordinary novel are filled with more width of understanding, more depth of compassion than would be possible in a book many times its length." David Plante
"Taking responsibility for the destruction of Palestine is a pill still far too bitter for most Israelis to swallow. Stepping outside of home and Hebrew, Oz Shelach takes us on an eerie journey through the archaeology of complicity and denial. Deeply personal, Picnic Grounds is also a profoundly political document that forces us to confront, as James Baldwin put it, 'the price of the ticket,' the heavy debt a state can exact from its people." Ammiel Alcalay
"There's something so captivating about these 'fragments,' about their beguiling simplicity, about the things they so eloquently withhold, something so pure and unpretentiously fresh. Oz Shelach, in the first person plural, is probably the most relentlessly restrained cartographer of the current Israeli scene, and this novel is the most intricately subtle commentary on that unsettled scene that I've read in years. A stunning literary achievement." Anton Shammas
Spare and haunting, whimsical and contemplative snapshot-stories that reveal an unfamiliar Israel by remapping its blind spots.
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