Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Review: The Hilltop by Assaf Gavron
Hailed as The Great Israeli Novel; (Time Out Tel Aviv) and winner of the prestigious Bernstein Prize, The Hilltop is a monumental and daring work about life in a West Bank settlement from one of Israel's most acclaimed young novelists.
On a rocky, beautiful hilltop stands Maleh Hermesh C, a fledgling community flying under the radar. According to the government it doesn't exist; according to the military it must be defended. On this contested land, Othniel Assis under the wary gaze of the neighboring Palestinian village plants asparagus, arugula, and cherry tomatoes, and he installs goats and his ever-expanding family. As Othniel cheerfully manipulates government agencies, more settlers arrive, and, amid a hodge-podge of shipping containers and mobile homes, the outpost takes root.
One of the settlement's steadfast residents is Gabi Kupper, a one-time free spirit and kibbutz-dweller, who undergoes a religious awakening. The delicate routines of Gabi's new life are thrown into turmoil with the sudden arrival of Roni, his prodigal brother, who, years after venturing to America in search of fortune, arrives at Gabi's door, penniless. To the settlements dismay, Roni soon hatches a plan to sell the artisanal; olive oil from the Palestinian village to Tel Aviv yuppies. When a curious Washington Post correspondent stumbles into their midst, Maleh Hermesh C becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal and faces its greatest test yet.
By turns serious and satirical, The Hilltop brilliantly skewers the complex, often absurd reality of life in Israel, the West Bank settlers, and the nation's relationship to the United States, and makes a startling parallel between today's settlements and the kibbutz movement of Gabi and Roni's youth. Rich with humor and insight, Assaf Gavron's novel is the first fiction to grapple with one of the most charged geo-political issues of our time, and he has written a masterpiece
Hardcover, 464 pages
Expected publication: October 7th, 2014 by Scribner
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Scribner via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is October 7, 2014.
This is not a book for the casual reader. For someone with limited knowledge of Israel (but trying to learn) I did find it difficult to keep track of the unfamiliar names as they were not what I am accustomed to.
The synopsis of the book captures it accurately. It does give one some insight on the area which often comes in the media. Although fictional it sheds a little bit of light on what it is like in this region and a glimpse of the conflict and might I add confusion occuring.
I will keep my comments short but I will say this is worth the read for those who are interested in this region and stories surrounding it. For those who enjoy reading "fluff" stories I would advise to stay away. To close I will say I do feel I am no closer to understanding the area particularly the conflict surrounding it however I will continue to learn through literature until I am confident that I have all the facts.
About the Author
Assaf Gavron grew up in Jerusalem, studied in London and Vancouver, and now lives in Tel Aviv. He is the author of four prize-winning novels (Ice, Moving, Almost Dead, and Hydromania), and a short story collection. Gavron is highly regarded for his translations into Hebrew of the work of novelists including Philip Roth, J.D. Salinger and Jonathan Safran Foer.