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Grossman's most entertaining novel
on 29 January 2007
David Grossman came to the attention of English-speaking readers when his novel 'See Under: Love' was published in the late 80s. I was a teenager at the time and it was one of those big, ambitious, monster novels you come across only a few times in your life; I'd compare it to Marquez or Pynchon, a dense, harrowing, weirdly magical experience. Grossman is a highly visible public intellectual in Israel, writing books about the Israel-Palestine conflict and urging on the Israeli government the necessity of negotiating with moderate Palestinians, which would make him seem wildly radical to a lot of western observers if it weren't for the fact that the Israeli government tends to be far to the right of the average Israeli citizen. His son was killed in 2006 while serving as a soldier in the Israel-Lebanon war, and Grossman made a memorable speech at the end of that year, castigating his government for its refusal to pursue a meaningful peace process and for destroying the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.
This is a state-of-Israel novel disguised as a kind of teenage adventure story, in which a boy trying to reunite a dog with its owner meets a girl trying to infiltrate a dodgy underworld syndicate of street performers. Grossman is alert to the corruption and demoralisation of Israeli society, but he can also tell a gripping yarn when he wants to, and this is a much zippier novel than 'See Under: Love'. It's hard to see how he made a story of desperate young people trying to find a way to live in a corrupt, violent, greedy milieu so enjoyable, but he did. I can't understand the comment from the reader who didn't like it, and I think that someone who clearly can't write has a nerve criticising an expert stylist like Grossman (even if what we're actually getting is Grossman translated into English).