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The Retrospective: Translated from the Hebrew by Stuart Schoffman Paperback – 14 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Halban Publishers (14 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905559569
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905559565
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 623,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Fascinating...beautiful."-"Ha'ir", Israel

Book Description

From the internationally acclaimed author of Mr. Mani and A Woman in Jerusalem, a thrilling novel that explores the relationship between life and art through the eyes of a film director, his screenwriter and their muse.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERTOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
Great read. A.B. Yehoshua is a master story teller whose runs of dialogue--inner and oral--are in a category almost by themselves (in my opinion). This is certainly true for his latest novel, "The Retrospective", which recounts the visit of 70-year old Israeli film director, Yair Moses, to Spain's primary pilgrimage center Santiago de Compostela for a three-day celebration of his early works. Accompanied by his long-time female star, close friend and sometime lover, Ruth, Moses soon finds that the retrospective showings are, for the Spanish hosts and audiences, as much about a long estranged writer colleague as they are about him. To his further surprise, the viewings lead him to a deeper focus on his history with Ruth and her critical role in his professional and personal lives, as well as a reexamination of his relationship with his long alienated writer collaborator.

This marvelous and sweeping story looks at the tricks of memory, the art of film making, relationships between the principal creators of film art--writer, director, actor and cinematographer, the geography and history of Spain and Israel, Israeli and Palestinian relationships, myth and painting, and much, much more. Yehoshua's storytelling and language cements the reader to the book's characters early on and demands the former's concern for the latter until the last page.

I'm a sucker for any story that offers redemption to flawed characters and "The Retrospective" certainly does deliver in that area, with a conclusion that is wholly original and effecting. This is a writer in full command of his subject and characters but who speaks to readers with unusual respect and intelligence as well. Highly recommended.

If you haven't tried any of Yehoshua's other books, take a look at "The Liberated Bride", "Mr. Mani" and "Journey to the Millenium". They're all wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 6 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Israeli author A. B. Yehoshua's new novel of ideas is surprising and wide-ranging, examining such issues as reality vs. the recreation of reality through art, film and myth; life, as opposed to the afterlife, and whether the afterlife is real or fantasy; the actualities of the past vs. memories of the past; the concept of guilt and whether one can atone; and the many aspects of love - love and death, love and hatred, love and jealousy. The development of these ideas, as revealed through the novel's actions and symbols, also apply to Israel and its political history - the victimization of the Jews by Spain during the Inquisition and by the Germans under the Nazis; the various branches of Judaism with their different interpretations of their obligations in Israel; the violence between residents of Gaza and Israel; the growing materialism of its current citizens; and the crassness of Moses himself when the Spanish grant him a prize.

The action begins when famous Israeli director Yair Moses travels to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain for a retrospective of his films. He arrives from Israel with Ruth, an aging actress whom he regards more as a character in his films than as a real person. All the films for the three days of the retrospective are his earliest films, made with the help of a brilliant screenwriter, Shaul Trigano, one of his former students. As the seven films shown at the retrospective are described successively, the reader becomes familiar with their themes, and the dramatic changes between these early films and Moses's most recent films become obvious. A young teacher observes, "In your latest films, the material aspect has assumed supreme importance, and not necessarily out of a new aesthetic.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 38 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A life looked back on -- and a murky message 8 Feb. 2013
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The highly readable novel begins with a 70-year-old Israeli movie director, Yair Moses, and Ruth, the female star of many of his movies arriving in the Spanish pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela for a retrospective of his work. They settle into the luxurious Parador, tour the cathedral and old city and begin watching the movies which date from the very beginning of the director's career when his partner was the brilliant but volatile screenwriter Shaul Trigano - Ruth's former lover.

The movies, dubbed in Spanish, are all rather surrealistic and mysterious. We learn that Moses and Trigano had a falling out when the director sided with Ruth in changing a crucial climactic scene in a movie, when she was supposed to offer her breast to an old homeless guy to suckle. Ruth refused to go through with the scene, Moses supported her and changed the ending and Trigano broke off relations with both of them and quit the movie business entirely.

Strangely, that very scene is echoed in a reproduction hanging in the hotel room depicting an aged father nursing at the breast of his daughter. We also learn two things: Moses has no more movie roles for Ruth and she herself may be suffering from a mysterious malady, perhaps a fatal disease, for which she refuses to seek treatment or even get tested.

A.B. Yehoshua, unlike his great Israeli contemporaries Amos Oz and David Grossman, does not write primarily about Israel and the dilemmas of the Middle East, even though we get a brief taste of rocket fire from Gaza in the latter pages of this book. Yehoshua's themes are more universal, concerning art, memory, love, loss, aging and death. Nevertheless, this reader struggled to unravel the overarching theme of this book even while enjoying the story and the characters. A strange ending bringing in Don Quixote made the message even more inscrutable. And so I finished the novel more puzzled than enlightened.

We learn that Moses and Trigano seem to have been in a weird battle to own or possess Ruth, whom they regard not as a flesh and blood woman but as a "character" -- clay to be molded according to their artistic whims. Trigano "left her to me as a character, for whom I had to take responsibility," Moses says. "He handed her over not as an actual woman but as the character of a woman." The subtext is that Moses, who no longer has any creative use for Ruth, now has to watch her die.

And Ruth too complains that Moses has turned her into a symbol, a character and notes that "love that ties to go beyond a woman and make her into a character, a symbol, is a love gone wrong."

And finally Trigano, when he finally meets Moses, bitterly accuses his former partner as well as Ruth of betrayal. He picked out Ruth as a young kid as someone who could make his creative dreams come true. His art was born from her and for her. "I created her character, shaped it from within her, gave it substance and motivation and words. And if at the end of the film she rebelled, then what the hell drove you to get betrween us? Why didn't you let me stifle her rebellion?" Trigano asks Moses.

At the end of the novel, Trigano asserts his control over Moses, who agrees to reenact the original scene himself, thus becoming a character in Trigano's fevered mind.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book -- but as I said a strange and twisted one too with a somewhat indecipherable message at its heart.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Into the past 12 Feb. 2013
By K. L. Cotugno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A. B. Yehoshua is an award winning novelist virtually unknown to American readers. A shame. This is fiction at its best -- illuminating, instructive, moving. This will definitely go down as one of the must reads of the year, which is saying a lot since there already has been a wealth of fine fiction in this relatively short time. Moses is a stand-in for Yehoshua himself, a man in his 70s invited to a historic town in Spain to be honored for his body of work. Unable at first to follow the dubbed prints as they are projected to a worshipful audience who seem to know more about him than he does himself, he finds memories are filling in the blanks and he is able to catch up. But this is no simple narrative. Everything about this book is lush, evocative. From the settings to the plots to the characters. Not a cliche among them. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Thinking Back 30 Jan. 2013
By Daniel Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book, from one of Israel's most lauded writers, is a competently told, well-written novel involving aspects of film, art, symbolism, the fine line between a character in a screenplay, the actor - or in this case, one particular actress - in a film, and that person simply, or not so simply, as a human being and many other threads, including class differences amongst Israelis of the north and south. But the primary theme that comes across to the reader is the schism between an artist (a director, in this case, Yair Moses) in his fiery youth and in his more settled septuagenarian perspective.

The narrative is told entirely from the point of view of the 70 year old Yair Moses, rather obviously Yehoshua's alter ego, starting during his visit to Santiago to witness, a retrospective, unbeknownst to him at first, of his early, experimental films whose screenplays were written by Trigano, a gifted student of his younger days as a teacher whose talent he recognised, but with whom he had a disastrous falling out before Moses himself abandoned the surreal and symbolic and went on to direct highly popular natural, realistic films.

The book indeed reads like a naturalistic, realistic novel, and, as such, doesn't quite grab hold of one the way a more poetic, risk-taking novel - or film - would do. It has a nice, slow pedestrian quality to it with many pages devoted to Moses's gastronomic urges and his afternoon naps. It seems to me that this was obviously the intention. But, for this particular reader, this manner of storytelling robs the book of impassioned interest.

Even in the end, when Moses/Yehoshua makes a rather complicated obeisance and atonement for his break with Trigano, after the two meet again, the tone and meaning of this act - though one could say, rightly, that the novel was, from the first chapter when Moses discovers a certain painting in his hotel room - overtly leading up to such a moment, somehow fails. It remains curiously muffled and lacking in the transformative power it seems meant to convey.

Very late in the novel, Moses tells Doña Elvira that, "Thinking is easy, feeling is harder." And it does indeed take some time for Moses to feel again. But, after over 300 pedestrian pages, this long-expected epiphanic ending falls flat, or did for this reader. Like one of Moses's afternoon naps, the mellow, wending bulk of the book left this reader unconvinced by the sudden transformation at the tag end.

But, I'll give it four stars because, if not to feel, the book certainly does offer the reader a full plate of ideas to ponder; before, after or during a nap.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A pilgrimage demanding atonement - Self-awareness comes at 70 11 Feb. 2013
By Blue in Washington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Great read. A.B. Yehoshua is a master story teller whose runs of dialogue--inner and oral--are in a category almost by themselves (in my opinion). This is certainly true for his latest novel, "The Retrospective", which recounts the visit of 70-year old Israeli film director, Yair Moses, to Spain's primary pilgrimage center Santiago de Compostela for a three-day celebration of his early works. Accompanied by his long-time female star, close friend and sometime lover, Ruth, Moses soon finds that the retrospective showings are, for the Spanish hosts and audiences, as much about a long estranged writer colleague as they are about him. To his further surprise, the viewings lead him to a deeper focus on his history with Ruth and her critical role in his professional and personal lives, as well as a reexamination of his relationship with his long alienated writer collaborator.

This marvelous and sweeping story looks at the tricks of memory, the art of film making, relationships between the principal creators of film art--writer, director, actor and cinematographer, the geography and history of Spain and Israel, Israeli and Palestinian relationships, myth and painting, and much, much more. Yehoshua's storytelling and language cement the reader to the book's characters early on and demand the former's concern for the latter until the last page.

I'm a sucker for any story that offers redemption to flawed characters and "The Retrospective" certainly does deliver in that area, with a conclusion that is wholly original and effecting. This is a writer in full command of his subject and characters but who speaks to readers with unusual respect and intelligence as well. Highly recommended.

If you haven't tried any of Yehoshua's other books, take a look at "The Liberated Bride", "Mr. Mani" and "Journey to the Millenium". They're all wonderful.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Complex and intellectually enriching 11 Feb. 2013
By moose_of_many_waters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Retrospective is a novel chock full of big ideas on the nature of art and the interplay between Ashkenazi Western and Sephardi Eastern cultures in Israel. Like most excellent novels, it also has a carefully plotted story. Most Americans probably won't understand the cultural themes here, but even without that layer of complexity, I'm guessing that The Retrospective will still resonate with smart English speaking audiences. This is a very intelligent book.

Yehoshua creates a stand-in for himself, a golden-aged movie director looking back at his career. He's not afraid to parody his past and throughout the novel there is a healthy mix of the comic and tragic. The director goes to Spain as an honored guest at a retrospective of his career. The journey opens up an old wound, a messy break up with his first screenwriter and muse. The novel follows the director as he tries to retrace his footsteps and ultimately reunite with his old and mercurial screenwriter.

Yehoshua has never been known for compact or lapidary writing and that's true here as well. But he does have a story to tell and he's quite inventive in how he tells it. This is not just a book to read alone and contemplate. It's a perfect book for a thinking person's book club. The Retrospective will likely be the best work of fiction I'll read this year.
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