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Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 275 Reviews FACING THE FIRES: CONVERSATIONS WITH A. B. YEHOSHUA. By Bernard Hom. Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music and Art. pp. xi + 198. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997. Cloth, $26.95. A week after Bernard Hom's book on A. B..Yehoshua hit the stands, I sat with Yehoshua in a Haifa cafe-much as Hom had during the past decade, meeting the Israeli author in cafes and private homes on both sides of the Atlantic, or occasionally talking with him over the phone. Like Hom, I sought Yehoshua because, having met him once and finding him eminently approachable, I felt the desire to maintain a live dialogue with him at the same time as I read his fictional work. Out of this desire, Hom, a professor of English literature with a penchant for Israeli affairs, fashioned a flowing account of his lively exchanges with Yehoshua, ranging in subject from Yehoshua's own fiction and political views, to world literature , Jewish identity, and history. Hom seeks to understand Israel's current socio-political condition and the future of Judaism through Yehoshua's work and, by extension, through an informed receptivity of Yehoshua's political, ideological, geographic, and demographic opinions about predicaments that Jews confront today in light of those they have confronted in the past. "Facing the Fires," a title that Hom borrowed from one of Yehoshua's now classic short stories, is presented not as a mere record of interviews with a very politicized contemporary writer, but rather as an ongoing friendly conversation with an individual whose creative vision of Israeli society and Jewish history is insightful and provocative. Hom records Yehoshua's artistic and political development, mapping its reception in Israel and abroad, while supplying basic data about Israeli history so that the book can profit readers unfamiliar with Yehoshua's writings and Israeli reality as much as it can engage the expert in the field. For the uninitiated, "Facing the Fires" can be a lively introduction to Yehoshua, Israeli literature , and Israeli reality-an introduction that wi111ikely spur further interest . The expert, on the other hand, will find details about the private, public, and creative character of this prominent Israeli writer, details that at present cannot be gleaned as comprehensively from any other published source. Hom and Yehoshua's observations about Yehoshua's creative process and his relationship with Israeli politics surface amidst recurrent discussions of the role of war in Israeli life and literature, the fateful balance of Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 276 Reviews Judaism conceived as both a nationality and a religion, the Arab-Israeli conflict from the British Mandate period to Oslo II, the Holocaust, and the perils of Diaspora. In a more specific literary context, the discussions often tum towards world literature, the Bible, Yehoshua's reaction to criticism of his work, and analyses of authors who have most influenced his style (Agnon, Kafka, Faulkner). Hom contextualizes these issues by providing occasional passages of factual background. In a sense, Hom is a character in search of an author who can help him fathom the complex nature of Judaism and Israeli volatility. Far from being "dead," Hom's author, vitally engaged and devoid of hubris, is willing to re-examine his views and share. As Bulli tells Bernie, a fair number of literary critics, in addition to Yehoshua himself, have caught "a kind of mania" from Mr. Mani-Yehoshua's greatest literary accomplishment thus far-and continue to interpret and decode its multiple layers and interconnected strands twelve years after initial parts of this novel first appeared in print. Hom's book has now infected me with a variation of this mania: I feel that in order to do justice to Hom's portrayal of Yehoshua, I, too, must investigate the literary, political, and personal connections that operate upon Hom, possibly spending long hours in conversation with the interviewer in order to understand the genesis and implications of his book. Such a mise en abyme would prolong the delightful atmosphere of curiosity , humor, and self-reflection pervading Hom and Yehoshua's meetings. Yael Halevi-Wise Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14850 THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF THE JEWISH RELIGION...


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