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Book Reviews 155 remembered that emotionalism in the service of hate, love, and the indescribable is the stuff of poetry. Werner Israel Halpern, M.D. Rochester, New York The Book ofIntimate Grammar, by David Grossman, translated by Betsy Rosenberg. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994. 343 pp. $22.00. In the tradition of leading Israeli writers, David Grossman continues to address issues at the heart of Israeli experience: in The Smile of the Lamb, an Israeli soldier is captivated by the fertile imagination of an old bizarre Arab; in the monumental See Under Love (see my review in World . Literature Today, Vol. 64, No.1 [Winter 1990)), we have a narrative about the problem of facing the Holocaust. With each new book, Grossman continues to grow as a writer, expanding his experiential and narrative territories. Using a variety of narrative techniques and employing numerous points of view, he challenges the conventional esthetic and political horizons of expectation. His characters are either children or blessed adults afflicted with inquisitive childish traits. This basic component of his fiction allows for unbridled imagination to enter. Taking daring steps,' and succeeding, he applies fantasy and the fantastic to the painful issues in contemporary israeli and Jewish consciousness: e.g., the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and others. His characters move in a highly personal domain, and at the same time they are signs on the map of Israeli awareness. Despite these shared elements, Grossman is a master of different narrative techniques: he can structure his novels as monologues of the main characters (The Smile ofthe Lamb); he can create a novel of independent parts joined by the presence of a growing protagonist (See Under Love). A superb craftsman, he combines highly "literary" techniques with insight into the psyche ofa contemporary protagonist. Characters cross psychological and political borders, into a fictional no-man's-land where the impossible becomes fictionally possible. From The Yellow Wind, a politicaV literary document depicting life on the West Bank and the refugee camps in the 1980s, to See Under Love, Grossman's fiction moves thematically to the center and heart of issues, narratively exploring the wide gamut of imaginative and fictional modes ofexpression. This combination ofcurrent pressing issues and unexpected narrative techniques renders his fiction unique. His characters' world is painted with utopian and dystopian 156 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 propenies that baflle and challenge us. With this, an element of curiosity enters: what will the next book be of this young writer? (Grossman was born in Jerusalem in 1954.) !be Book o/Intimate Grammar is yet another literary feat. In a 1991 interview on Israeli television, Grossman said he has tried to enter the "internal" grammar and syntax of a boy from the age of eleven to the age offouneen. It is a book about childhood. Quoting Rilke, Grossman said that one can always return to the museum ofchildhood. He does not want to give up on that child: the self as a child, and the child that lingers as pan of the adult self. The place is a suburb in Jerusalem, Beit Hakerem; the time is the 1960s prior to the Six-Day War. It is a truncated Bildungsroman that offers a dense and seriocomic picture of a family and its neighborhood. At the center of the novel is Aharon, a sensitive young boy whose physical growth is arrested. Opposed to this frailty there is the image of the virile father, a simple man, a Holocaust survivor endowed with great physical strength. He escaped the camps and wandered in the Nonh Siberian Taiga. As Grossman states, the son exchanges his sexuality for verbality. His arrested puberty is panially compensated for by his intelligence and the learned Hebrew he speaks. He thereby poses something of a challenge to the father who despite his extreme virility will never master the Hebrew language. In another recent interview, Grossman related to the term "dikduk" in his title: it means "grainmar," but also precision and exactness. This confluence of meanings, in Hebrew, enables the boy to measure his physical growth in terms of his linguistic prowess. Aharon knows, in his internal grammar, that the delay in his growth is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 155-157
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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