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on 12 February 2002
...In 'Be My Knife' acclaimed novelist David Grossman parses in the deepest way imaginable into the lives of 'Yair' and 'Miriam' who begin an affair of and in words only - a true epistolary tour de force. If you like dense extraordinary imagery, daring and completely off-the-wall thoughts, even more daring and off-the-wall actions, then YOU will love this book and you will continue to come back to it and dip into it, long, long after you have finished it. And after you have finished it, you will be changed. And you will look at your own relationships differently perhaps, even at yourself differently... Whether you have ever had an affair or not. And then you will want to read all his other books that have this amazing style and lack of fear. I rate this ace reading.
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on 2 August 2002
Wonderful invention of unreal worlds, not in order to run away from reality, but as a journey to discover ways of being and feeling that reality keeps hidden. Worlds that are unreal not because they are impossible, but because they are possibilities not yet realised, if they ever will be.
Writing as a means to overcome the limits that reality imposes in order to truly know another person, giving him/her our soul, shaped in words, and getting back the true knowledge of ourselves, which the words of his/her soul carry as a knife digging deep inside us.
Research of new expressive ways, because literature, as any other form or art, is not only expression, but also, and mainly, creation.
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The "plot" of this novel is easy to summarize. Yair Einhorn, a 33-year-old, married man sees Miriam, a somewhat older woman, for five minutes at a party, never meets or talks to her, but instantly decides that she would be the perfect person to whom to bare his soul in letters. "We could be like two people who inject themselves with truth serum...I want to be able to say to myself, 'I bled truth with her. Be a knife for me,'" he says in his introductory letter to her. The first 2/3 of the book consists of Yair's long, self-analytical letters to Miriam, the rest of the novel consisting of Miriam's diary and a separate collage of their comments after the end of the correspondence.
Many readers will have a difficult time suspending disbelief as much as is necessary here to accept the basic premise of this novel--that a complete stranger can write a long, neurotic, and frighteningly personal letter to a woman who does not run away in terror and who, in fact, agrees to be his "knife." In this novel of words rather than actions, Yair says, early in his correspondence, "I never imagined that meeting a stranger's language could be as exciting as the first touch of her body," and he admits to feeling jealous when he finds, in newspapers and advertising, some of the individual words Miriam has used in her letters. He also confesses that "something is building up...begging to burst out, something that will suffocate if it doesn't crack..." He admits that his emotional stability is "the size of a peanut." Still Miriam allows the correspondence to continue, even though his letters arrive without postmarks, hand delivered to her mailbox at work.
Self-conscious and, some would say, self-indulgent in the extreme, Yair's letters eventually begin to reveal factual information about his marriage and his child, in addition to his own inner child, which he hopes to rediscover through Miriam, and I found myself grabbing onto these morsels as a way to give some reality and perspective to his lengthy and sometimes repetitious self-analysis.
Miriam's diary, on the other hand, is truly touching. Appearing 2/3 of the way through the book, it is a very moving story of a woman who, in addition to working, must also deal with a seriously ill 10-year-old child, a child who was once normal but who is now speechless, living in his own world, and subject to fits. The conclusion, a section called Rain, which comes after the end of the correspondence, is intense and very dramatic.
Though the book is thoughtful and well written, I found it difficult to care much about Yair, whose inner world and needs seem to be his only concern. Miriam, on the other hand, has very real and difficult problems in the outside world, all of them, it seems to me, more urgent than Yair's, yet, until her diary appears late in the book, we know little about her except a few nuggets we glean second-hand from Yair's letters. This is a very introspective novel requiring immense patience, a book which will undoubtedly reward some readers, while perhaps driving others to distraction. Mary Whipple
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on 5 November 2012
A 30 something father is discontented with his life and reignites when he spots a female childhood friend at a book fair. He begins writing to her and this is indeed that quaint thing a book of letters, rendered a bit of a curio these days with email, instant messaging and the like. So first we have 200 pages of his overwrought angst since he doesn't actually meet her in the flesh throughout the vast majority of this. She does reply but since we don't see her responses he is basically writing into a vacuum as far as the reader is concerned. There is no limit on his emotions through being bounded by a second person, it's largely him talking to himself. And he is not a very likable person accordingly, seeming somewhat self-obsessed and indulgent.

The book moves on when they finally do meet and although it is largely a sex scene, it's done in a very affecting way that utterly reveals both characters through it.

Then we have the woman's responses, also in a monologue form of a journal. There are several ways for the author to have attacked this. Does the timeline of her journal match that of his letters? No, it occurs after their meeting up in a motel. Is her language at a similar fevered pitch to his, in which case both characters risk being throughly unsympathetic? No, she is quieter, more reflective, less extreme. But then I ask myself what she sees in him? even if he represents her breaking out of her routinised life, he is clearly not suitable for such a sensibility as hers. So i think the author backed himself into an impossible corner here. That is not to say her section isn't powerfully moving as she toils with her autistic son and is a far better representation of motherhood, than his section is about fatherhood.

And then we have the third and final section. A series of phone calls between the two over an event that happens in the man's house. This is the first time they genuinely relate, as in they are 'present' together in the moment and actually conversing. And of course they're not really. They're not really making a connection, he is not really listening to her. She cannot see his face to judge her reactions, since he is down the other end of a telephone line. However, I found the event itself so shocking, I actually felt this was the best part of the novel. But it also didn't seem to fit with the rest of the novel. Although the characters were the same, the shock of them actually being on the same page was strangely jolting. It did seem to come from another book altogether. A very strange effect to wreak on the reader and not one intended I'm guessing.

I found the book a slog, particularly the first 180 pages or so because I just couldn't get into his self-pity and patent unlikableness. But I gave it 3 stars for sections 2 and 3 even though I didn't think they made the book hang together as a whole.
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on 22 March 2004
Even five years after reading it for the first time (in Hebrew) I go back to this book occasionally. It is an intimate, emotionally-demanding piece of art which is rather poetry than fiction. The narrative is secondary to the unusual depth to which Grossman dives, exposing the bleeding souls of his two heros. Some people will find it distressing; I think it is wonderful. One of the best distractions from reality.
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on 26 July 2013
I bought it as a gift.
I've already read it in Italian, so no surprise about the content.
Nice cover, nice lettering.
I'm satisfied.
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on 29 April 2015
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