The Fictioning Horror Sale

Reviews From


Harper's Magazine
Friday, September 3rd, 2010
Voice your opinion about this review by
posting a comment on the blog


Homesick (Hebrew Literature)

by Eshkol Nevo


A review by Benjamin Moser

"A Life based on survival as opposed to love was perhaps desirable," David Peplin speculates, a line that could almost serve as an epigraph for another novel of fraught coexistences, Homesick (Dalkey Archive, $15.95), by the young Israeli writer Eshkol Nevo. Castel, a crummy hilltop village between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, is haunted by typically Israeli ghosts: of a young soldier recently killed in action, whose parents and little brother are stuck in an airless apartment decorated with macabre mementos of the dead hero; of a baby who died in Kurdistan and seems, to a brain-damaged old man, to have returned in the guise of an aged Palestinian. This man, forced to flee with his family in 1948, has recently returned in search of a treasure his mother left behind.

At the center of the novel is another unhappy young couple, Amir and Noa, good-looking, urbane students -- she of photography, he of psychology -- forced out of the big cities by financial considerations. They soon find themselves fantasizing about leaving, the town and each other.

Homesick is set in the mid-Nineties, just as hopes for peace were squashed by Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Nevo is not a political writer, but he shows how Israel's troubles seep into the lives of his characters. Noa is inspired to take pictures of Palestinian families in front of homes from which they were expelled, but with few Arabs allowed into the country, she has to do with Romanians.

Nevo alternates between several different voices and because the speakers are not clearly marked, the narrative can, at first, be difficult to follow. But the technique also operates like a camera exploring every recess of the unhappy town of Castel, a place where everybody is looking for home, and where nobody can find it.

Benjamin Moser is a contributing editor of Harper's Magazine and the author of Why This World.

Click here to subscribe Why subscribe to Harper's Magazine?

Because each issue of Harper's Magazine ever published - from June 1850 through today - is now online and comes free with your regular print subscription.
Search and browse through essays and fiction by Mark Twain, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Faulkner, Graham Greene, Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robinson, George Saunders, Barbara Ehrenreich, Alice Munro, David Foster Wallace, National Correspondent Lewis H. Lapham and many more.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for as little as $16.97 per year!
  • back to top
Follow us on...

Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at