Read Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel Free Online
Book Title: Ten Thousand Lovers|
The author of the book: Edeet Ravel
ISBN 13: 9780755303717
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 540 KB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2029 times
Reader ratings: 6.2
Date of issue: December 1st 2005
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This was a random buy the other week; the author's new book caught my eye and since it was the third book in a sort-of trilogy, I picked up the first one, this one, and was interested enough to take it home with me. For some reason, it was just begging to be read, so it didn't have to wait the usual waiting period of books I take home (which is anywhere between five months and five years). However, now that it's time to write the review, I find myself stuck. Every time I try to summarise it, it just doesn't sound right. So I'm ditching my usual review structure and will just talk about the book, revealing necessary bits of the plot-light story as I go.
The premise, in brief, is about a young woman, Lily, studying linguistics and language at the university in Jerusalem who meets a man, Ami, who works as an interrogator for the army. It is a story of their love for one another, a story of horror and heartbreak in a war-torn country, of a people persecuted - and I'm not talking about the Jews here. It's a powerful story, set in the 70s, that is inherently relevant today.
I'm always interested in reading books about other countries and people, especially when I've been immobile in one place for too long. I love to get a sense of that other place, I want to taste it and touch it and see it - I can practically smell it, if the book works for me. That was one of the biggest disappointments about Joe Speedboat, which was set in the Netherlands but seemed to be trying to hide its Dutch qualities rather than explore, highlight, celebrate them. There was none of that problem here, in Ten Thousand Lovers. Because Lily is Canadian-Israeli, and spent the first seven years of her life on a Kibbutz with her parents, she has a history with the place and understands the people. She speaks fluent Hebrew. Why she returned to Israel to do her university degree isn't very clear, but since it's a story of shadows and things unsaid, it fits.
In fact, I can't go any further without talking about the prose style. If you start this book expecting a fairly typical style of writing, you could be alienated by what you do get. This is a very dialogue-driven story, fit into a fine mesh net of sparse description, and even the dialogue is stripped bare of flounces. There are few descriptors, very little adjectives, so that Ami, especially, sounds formal, distant, even aloof. Yet also not, because Lily also includes explanations on the people and the language - on certain words, their meanings and history and implications - that are fascinating and revealing. Be prepared to read of a people and culture different from your own. You cannot place your own expectations and moral code onto them. It gives it a faint touch of Fantasy, because they sound alien, yet their story is so human the lack of description and adjectives just drives it home all the more powerfully.
Lily meets Ami when she's hitchhiking from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Ami falls for her almost instantly, and is always open and frank with her. He doesn't try to hide what he does for a living, and Lily doesn't hide how much it scares her, how she doesn't trust him or know him - through it all he persists and holds true, and eventually she moves past her fears. Ami is an incredibly charismatic character, totally believable, and it's understandable that he can interrogate prisoners without an ounce of violence and find out everything they want to know. He hates his job but every time he quits they offer him more money to come back - plus, I think he feels that if he weren't doing it, the way he does it, the other interrogators would step in and they are, in Ami's words, sadistic. He explains his technique to Lily, and as we get to know Ami - who, really, is the true hero and protagonist of the story - and learn more about his personal views, it feels like Ami vs. the whole crazy world.
Things were rough in Israel during the 70s, and they're probably worse now. Ten Thousand Lovers gives honest insight into the situation at the human level, yet you won't learn much in terms of facts and figures. This isn't that kind of historical fiction. I wasn't even sure, for most of the book, when it was set. I guessed 80s, based purely on how old Lily's daughter seemed to be. See, the story has two parallel time lines. In one, present-day Lily is writing the story of meeting Ami and what happened there, while her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend flit in and out of her home. In the other is the story itself. The third part of the novel is the small sections explaining quirks of Hebrew, which were the most factual, informative parts of the novel and really interesting too. You'll learn more about the language and culture than you will about what the hell is going on in the country.
Actually, that's not true either. You will learn about it, just not at the political and economic level. Fear and prejudice is explored, but never baldly. The shadows move softly throughout this novel, and I found myself leaning closer, trying to peer through them to the "truth". But there is no simple, straight-forward truth, only interpretations and perspectives of it. I wouldn't want a simple, straight-forward story anyway, I wouldn't want to be told.
It did take me a while to adjust to the prose, though. It's quite different, and it won't work for everyone. It was frustrating at times, because it made the characters and story seem almost elusive, but it was also highly effective. For a while I was scared of Ami too. I didn't trust him, I was suspicious of him, I thought bad things would happen to Lily if she got into a relationship with him. He's so magnetic, so controlled and calm and intelligent, I knew he'd outwit me no matter what. I worried about his sincerity. I worried about his motives. I worried that he really was involved in torture. In short, I absorbed all Lily's fears and made them my own - and then I absorbed her growing love and trust in Ami, and loved him too.
It's this kind of emotional connection that I look for in a book, that makes a book a perfect fit for me. I can see that some readers would have an opposite reaction to mine, because of the prose style, but for me the sparsity of words made it all that much closer, more intimate, stripped bare of the usual descriptions that can in fact protect you from getting too close. I can see I need to give an example, so I've picked a more-or-less random passage:
"It's funny how we met. Such a fluke. If I hadn't lent my roommate money. If I hadn't bought a chocolate on the way to the bus. If I'd been there ten minutes earlier or later."
"I thought about that too."
"I suppose God had it all planned out."
I didn't mean it literally, but Ami underwent a transformation when I said that. He became fierce. "Don't bring God into it," he said.
"I was just joking. What's the matter? You're scaring me."
"I don't like religious people," he said. I saw how intimidating he could be if he felt like it.
"Well, I'm not religious. I'm an atheist, I was born on a kibbutz, remember? The first time I heard that word, 'God', was when we went back to Canada, and I went to Hebrew school. You can be scary."
"Don't scare me like that again. The next time you scare me like that I'm leaving."
"I didn't mean to scare you. You're very sensitive, Lily."
"Why do you hate the religious?"
"It's psychotic to say this is what God wants, because that's what you want. This is what's written in the Torah, God said we should have this land, and the Arabs, who don't have a soul anyway, who are subhuman anyway, should just be demolished, because that's what God wants. Who can argue with yehova? I wish the ground would just open up and swallow them."
"In my fantasy they don't die, they just all move to New York."
He pulled me towards him and rolled me so that I was lying on top of him. He smiled at me. "Yes, that's much more humane," he said, in English. [pp. 77-78:]
I loved Lily too, she's very identifiable - no doubt from all her years living in Canada (she writes her story from her home in London, not Canada, but that just adds to her Western feel). Politics does come up, of course - how could it not? - and religion too; I was far more offended than Lily even by the Jewish wedding traditions. She wasn't even required to speak during the ceremony! And I loved Ami all the more for hating it all. I guess he's very modern.
If you're interested in reading about Israel during the 70s, if you're interested in that area at all, or if you feel in the mood to read a heart-breaking love story; if you like stories that are written differently, if you study creative writing and are drawn to books that try out different prose styles - or from some reason of your own, I really recommend this book and I'm eager to read the other two books in Ravel's Tel Aviv trilogy.
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Read information about the authorI spent my first seven years on Sasa, an Israeli kibbutz, and the next ten in Montreal. I returned to Jerusalem in 1973 to study at Hebrew University. I wrote continually as I accumulated degrees (a BA and MA in English, followed by an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Biblical Exegesis at McGill) and then taught, but I did not send out my work until I was in my forties; I had completed ten or so novels by then. I now live in beautiful Guelph with my daughter Larissa.
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