Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A thriller from Israel

I wonder what kind of discussion Yishai Sarid's novel Limassol has stimulated in Sarid's own country, Israel.

The protagonist, an Israeli secret service agent, agrees to go undercover to redeem himself after one prisoner dies in his custody and another spits in his face, earning a tooth-breaking punch in the mouth.

In his new mission, he insinuates himself into the company of an Israeli writer who has befriended a dying Palestinian named Hani whose son has become a terrorist bomber. He grows fond of the courtly, peaceable Hani (though not entirely enamored of his literary efforts), and the novel's suspense and moral dilemma spring from their friendship.

(One interesting discussion of the book contrasts the protagonist's own estrangement from his young family with Hani's yearning to see his son, suggesting that "the Palestinians are destined to overcome simply because theirs is a culture which recognizes and nurtures fatherhood." Perhaps, though the review neglects to mention that Hani has not seen his son for years, and that the son is willing to blow himself up, which may mean eternal life, but without father.)

Perhaps more controversial is a sarcastic off-hand observation about Israeli troops with low IQs being assigned the unpleasant task of guarding prisoners. Such observations are not generally uttered about the military in the United States, and an outsider like your humble blogkeeper can only wonder about their effect in a country where the military has traditionally been revered.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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9 Comments:

Blogger michael said...

During the Vietnam war the American soldier received little respect from the public. While today we may thank a soldier, in the 60s and 70's they were taunted and at extreme times spit at by Americans.

Perhaps the comments reflect a growing distaste for the use of the Israeli soldier by the current government.

December 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or maybe a less romantic, more nuanced, more realistic view of soldiers -- that some are heroes, and others not.

December 14, 2010  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

It may be similar to what we see with cops in a lot of crime fiction (or at least TV shows), the uniformed 'beat cops' usually portrayed as not as smart as the well-dressed detectives. It may be part of our north American obsession with upward mobility and individuality - if you're still on the front lines you must not have been promoted and it must be your own fault....

December 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That might make the attitude an especially daring Israeli adaptation, then. I think the Israeli army has prided itself on its informality, its relative lack of social barriers between and ease of interaction among soldiers have high ranks and low.

December 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John: What I compared it to was the observation one used to hear in the U.S., and maybe still does from time to time, that the military is a last resort and that it's kids who aren't rich or educated who wind up as cannon fodder.

December 16, 2010  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Yes, Peter, we hear that here in Canada, too, though maybe more quietly, of course, and we never talk about how regional our military make-up is.

But I do think the same attitude used to apply more to the police, as well. Certainly when my broher joined the RCMP there was a feeling in the family that he could have done better. But the image of the police officer in the popular media has been a factor, I think, in changing this attitude and there hasn't been the same attention paid to the military.

December 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But the image of the police officer in the popular media has been a factor, I think, in changing this attitude ...

The military needs its counterpart to the 87th Precinct or Peter Lovesey, Suart Kaminsky or any number of other authors who make cops into real character. Or John McFetridge, for that matter.

Here in the U.S., the popular attitude toward the military is odd. It's pasted over with a veneer of belligerent worship, as expressed in idiotic country and western songs, but I'm not sure people want to think any more than they used to about troops' everuday lives, about the composiion of the military, and so on.

December 16, 2010  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Yes, the military could use an 87th Precinct. there is a TV show called NCIS but I've never seen it.

Did you see Brian Lindenmuth's article at Mulholland Books about crime comics? There used to be military comics, remember Sgt. Rock? Maybe they'll be revived someday, turned into graphic novels.

December 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian is the guru who has led me back to comics (with some help from Jon Jordan). I'll take a look at the article right away.

I was vaguely aware of Sgt. Rock when I was a kid, but I don't think war loomed large for we peaceable Canadians. I was a DC superheroes guy all the way when I was 8 and 9 years old.

Martin Limon has written a series of crime novels for Soho set during the Korean War. Limon served twenty years in the U.S. Army himself, and I think he knows what he's talking about.

December 16, 2010  

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