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The Betrayers Paperback – 28 Aug 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (28 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670921580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670921584
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 446,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Gripping from the outset, as tightly structured as an intense theatrical experience, this is brilliant writing. Kotler - uncompromising and comprised - is a fascinating, provocative figure (Tom Rob Smith)

A work of high moral seriousness dispatched with a gripping elegance . . . Bezmozgis's story of fallen saints and redeemed outcasts is, to put it plainly, the work of a great writer (Joshua Ferris, author of 'To Rise Again at a Decent Hour')

Just when we think we've arrived at the heart of the story's moral complexity, Bezmozgis cuts again and lays bare yet another layer . . . one of the foremost writers of his generation (Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk)

A compelling tale of reckoning. Bezmozgis is a smart, taut writer . . . His sentences make interesting turns; his dialogue bites; and he brings alive pre-revolutionary Crimea, with its glum post-Soviet citizens and purple Yalta onions for sale by the roadside (Financial Times)

A moral thriller . . . Bezmozgis is a magician (Aleksandar Hemon, author of The Lazarus Project)

Taut, fierce, forensically insightful . . . explores the frictions between goodness and kindness, public and private virtue, forgiveness and forgetting. Compulsive and profound (A D Miller, author of Snowdrops)

Brilliant, deft depictions of love, of memory, of compassion - and, ultimately, despite its title, of loyalty (Edith Pearlman, author of Binocular Vision)

A taut, slim book with a stately tone that makes it feel much larger . . . For [a] lively topical discussion of what it means to live a moral life, The Betrayers is just what the doctor ordered (Prospect)

An impressive novel . . . Bezmozgis explores the dynamics of mercy, guilt and repentence (Sunday Times)

A vivid novel . . . raising questions of integrity, compromise, identity and forgiveness (Guardian)

A brave and ambitious novel . . . The Betrayers suggests that Bezmozgis may potentially be one of the most important writers of his generation (Independent)

Compelling. Bezmozgis's deft plotting, atmospheric scene-setting and limpid style remain assured. Each page is a gem (Economist)

Ambitious. Bezmozgis is a fine writer (Telegraph)

An impressive novel . . . In unadorned prose, Bezmozgis explores the dynamics of mercy, guilt and repentence (Sunday Times)

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By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
David Bezmogis was born in 1973 in Latvia, then part of the Soviet Union, and emigrated with his family to Canada in 1980. Like his previous novel, The Free World (see my Amazon review), this one concerns Russian Jews.

In the tense and extremely well-written Part One of the book the central figure, Baruch Kotler, is to some extent modelled on Natan Sharansky: both were born in Soviet Ukraine, both had been computer scientists, both had initially been refused permission by the authorities to emigrate to Israel though in each case the wife had been allowed to go, both had become Soviet dissidents, both had been sentenced to 13 years, first in the Lefortovo prison and then in the Soviet Gulag at Perm, both had then then able to leave for Israel where both had entered politics, headed a Russian faction in the Knesset and had a Cabinet post as Minister of Trade, but had resigned this in protest when the unnamed prime minister (but is it Sharon) was about to withdraw from unnamed settlements (they would have been the four West Bank settlements which, together with Gaza, were evacuated in 2005.) So far, so close is the story of Kotler to that of Sharansky; then pure fiction takes over:

The government takes it revenge on Kotler and publishes compromising photographs of him: they were intended to destroy his reputation, but did not indicate that he had committed a crime. Even so, he impulsively runs away, together with his young mistress, to Crimea, where as a child he had spent happy holidays. (Post-Soviet Ukraine was by now independent and Crimea was still part of it.) That is quite hard to believe, and he will soon regret it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Bezmozgis ‘The Betrayers’ is a disquieting, uncomfortable read – and an excellent one, in large part because of the discomfort of its shifting, ambiguous moral territory, and the avoidance of easy, comforting solutions. Life is messy, angels and demons as distinct entities are fairy tale creations, and the best and the worst of us alike are constantly in shift along a continuum of moral high and low ground

Baruch Kotler, one of the two central characters in this book, is a Russian Jew, now living in Israel. Kotler became a hero. He was a dissident in Russia, betrayed by a colleague, a fellow Jew, and spent thirteen years in the gulags, saved from execution (his initial sentence) because of an international outcry. When at the end of his sentence he and his wife were allowed to emigrate to Israel, they were greeted as heroes. Years on, Kotler is now a member of the Knesset, who have narrowly voted to withdraw from the settlements. Kotler is implacably opposed to this, and there have been attempts to twist his arm and get him to toe the line. Something he refuses to do – even when one of the ‘twists’ is to publicly expose the fact that he is having an affair with Leora, a co-worker, daughter of friends, a similar age to Kotler’s own daughter, Dafna – and coincidentally a close friend of Dafna’s

The novel opens with Kotler and his lover on the run as the ‘scandal’ breaks in the Israeli media. They have come to hole up in Yalta, back to Kotler’s roots, till the media furore dies down. Kotler was last here forty years ago.

By happenstance, a mix-up with hotel reservations results in Kotler and Leora having to seek ‘hospitality’ with one of the locals who turn up at stations to offer travellers bed and breakfast, in return for much-needed currency.
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By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this unusual book, The Betrayers, which charts a few days in the life of senior Israeli politician Baruch Kotler as he travels to Yalta to escape press coverage of his extra-marital affair. Along the way we pick up on Baruch’s intriguing back-story as a Soviet dissident, and also meet the man who denounced him to the authorities many years ago in Russia.

In Yalta, the hotel the couple intended to stay in is full and so by a long chain of coincidences they end up staying in a guest-house owned by the wife of Vladimir Tankilevich, the very person who denounced Baruch back in Soviet Russia, leading to his incarceration.

Tankilevich has fallen on hard times. Life in Yalta for a 70 year-old Jew and his wife is a life of struggle, dependant in part on a small stipend from the Jewish centre. This stipend comes with rules and regulations which make life burdensome for the aging Tankilevich and he makes one last attempt to explain his position to the administrator of the stipend fund, a stern and imperious woman who knows of his treachery back in Russia and seems to enjoy humiliating Tankilevich.

Before long Vladimir Tankilevich and Baruch Kotler realise who each other is and we are treated to a long extended discourse with them as they relive their pasts and discover that perhaps things were not what they seemed at the time.

While this makes for a good story in itself, the enjoyment of the book comes from the many descriptive passages. Baruch had several childhood holidays in Yalta and he reminisces about his athletic father’s frustration at his son who had no sporting ability whatsoever.
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