Synopses & Reviews
A woman in her forties is a victim of a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem market. Her body lies nameless in a hospital morgue. She had apparently worked as a cleaning woman at a bakery, but there is no record of her employment. When a Jerusalem daily accuses the bakery of "gross negligence and inhumanity toward an employee," the bakery's owner, overwhelmed by guilt, entrusts the task of identifying and burying the victim to a human resources man. This man is at first reluctant to take on the job, but as the facts of the woman's life take shape she was an engineer from the former Soviet Union, a non-Jew on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, judging by an early photograph, beautiful he yields to feelings of regret, atonement, and even love.
At once profoundly serious and highly entertaining, A. B. Yehoshua astonishes us with his masterly, often unexpected turns in the story and with his ability to get under the skin and into the soul of Israel today.
"Israel's master novelist (Mr. Mani) tells a spellbinding tale about a spellbinding woman whose luminous smile, swan's neck and Tatar eyes are so beguiling that even in death she can lead a man to fall in love with her. The woman is Yulia Ragayev, a Slavic immigrant to Israel who has been killed in a terrorist bombing and whose corpse lies unidentified in a morgue for a week. The man (who, like everyone in the novel except Yulia, remains nameless) is the human resources manager at the commercial bakery where Yulia worked as a cleaning woman. A muckraking article forces the bakery's owner to discover her identity and take action to restore her dignity. The owner orders the HR director to return Yulia's body to her son and mother in her native land for burial a journey that turns into an opportunity for moral redemption for him after a series of stunning reversals. Throughout, Yulia remains a mystery: why did she come to, and cling to, Jerusalem when she wasn't Jewish? Questions of morality, dignity, identity, nationality and belonging are subtly explored in sometimes hallucinatory prose, fluently translated by Halkin. This short novel's layers reveal themselves only gradually and, once revealed, continue to compel and provoke." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n emotionally powerful novel....A moving, unsentimental reckoning with death and renewal." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he writing is beautifully exact and the moral issues delivered with understated authority. Yet the protagonist's circumscribed nature and grinding battles to accomplish his goal can lend the narrative an airless and boxed-in feel." Library Journal
"This novel has about it the force and deceptive simplicity of a masterpiece....Yehoshua, long a master of gentle, almost Chekhovian comedy, takes in this instance a deeply bleak premise...and creates from it a work of art by turns absurd, strange and moving." Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review
"A suicide bomb attack sounds like an obvious topic for a novel set in modern Jerusalem. But there's nothing obvious about the new novel A Woman in Jerusalem
by award-winning Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua....Yehoshua seems to have deliberately detached A Woman in Jerusalem
from daily life, to better explore people's moral obligations to one another." Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
"A Woman in Jerusalem
...need not appease our skepticism about every particular detail in order to work its peculiar and powerful effect. Yehoshua's moral fable combines the amusements of imagination with the responsibilities of conscience. If love here turns out to be the ultimate moral expression, it is evidence that the sleep of reason does not produce only monsters." Ruth Franklin, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review
About the Author
A. B. YEHOSHUA is the author of numerous novels, including Mr. Mani, Five Seasons, The Liberated Bride, and A Woman in Jerusalem. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, and he has received many awards worldwide, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award. He lives in Tel Aviv, Israel. An author, journalist, and internationally reknowned, awarding-winning translator, Hillel Halkin has translated several novels from Hebrew into English.