- Compassion and Fury: On The Fiction of A. B. Yehoshua by Gilead Morahg
Gilead Morahg’s (Compassion and fury) is the first fulllength monograph in Hebrew that provides a chronological and systematic analysis of A. B. Yehoshua’s literary output thus far. It complements Bernard Horn’s 1997 Facing the Fires and extends the scope of shorter Hebrew monographs by Sadan-Lowenstein, Yudkin, Balaban, and Miron, which focused on a more limited number of Yehoshua’s works. There exist, in addition, several collections of essays dedicated to individual works by Yehoshua, as well as to surveys of his oeuvre—notably the recent compendium by Banbaji, Ben-Dov, and Shamir and the Italian proceedings edited by Emanuela Trevisan Semi—but they do not provide a methodical consideration of the author’s stylistic and thematic development.
To some extent, Morahg’s volume, too, is a compendium of essays published in English and Hebrew over the course of three decades—a fact unfortunately omitted from the acknowledgements and footnotes. However, the labor of translating, updating, and integrating this material into a unified Hebrew volume resulted in a detailed overview of Yehoshua’s development from the perspective of a scholar who has followed this writer deeply and [End Page 433] closely over the course of many years; it also provides a systematic, though somewhat overly-determined assessment of Yehoshua’s artistic and rhetorical maneuvers in a way that is bound to become a foundational cornerstone for future studies on this author.
Through close readings of Yehoshua’s early short stories, novellas, and first three novels—The Lover (1977), A Late Divorce (1982), and מולכו (Five seasons, 1987)—the opening chapters establish a terminological distinction between the allegorical and realist styles that organize Yehoshua’s analogical system of symbolic references. The middle third of the volume is entirely devoted to Yehoshua’s masterpiece, Mr. Mani (1990), with detailed interpretations of each of its five parts plus an integrative discussion. The closing chapters give detailed readings of A Journey to the End of the Millennium (1999), The Liberat[ing] Bride (2001), and חסד ספרדי (The retrospective, 2011), based on a debatable contention that they expose more intensely the analogical system of references through which Yehoshua portrays Israel’s sociopolitical situation in his mature enterprise.
Hewing closely to the plotlines of each narrative, Morahg occasionally ventures outside the fictional world—as he does in his seminal explication of A Late Divorce via Yehoshua’s “Golah as a Neurotic Solution”—to illuminate Yehoshua’s creative choices in light of the author’s ideological statements. In A Late Divorce, the split of Yehuda Kaminka’s schizophrenic wife into a Naomi and an Elohima driven into the “desert” too late to save the Kaminkas from disaster, thus warns about the consequences of a dispersed state of Jewish national/familial irresponsibility. In The Liberat[ing] Bride, a different kind of warning reveals the violence that might erupt within individuals, families, communities, or nations as a consequence of unprocessed myths within the collective psyche. In his analysis of Mr. Mani, Morahg identifies a variety of unprocessed myths and desires that facilitate excessive and immoral risk taking which Mordechai Shalev, Yael Feldman, and Yehoshua himself have discussed in relation to the Akedah and its paradigmatic echoes in this and other texts.
Morahg is especially attuned to crucial moments of character development, emerging from a sudden awakening of compassionate feelings that are capable of reverberating through the spheres of family, community, and nation. An insistence on the redemptive power of empathy as a precondition for personal and national “normalization” shapes Yehoshua’s narrative arches and leads to moral growth in some of his characters—for example Dov from “Three Days and a Child,” Hagar from Mr. Mani, or Yair Moses from The Retrospective. But although recognition of the needs and histories of others is a liberating stance in Yehoshua’s plots, a mutually-validating expectation of reciprocity is another, complementary, aspect of Yehoshua’s ideology that Morahg has indeed noted on...