Journey to the Son

By Begley, Adam | Moment, September-October 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Journey to the Son


Begley, Adam, Moment


To the End of the Land

By David Grossman Alfred A. Knopf 2010, $27.95, pp. 592

Fiction and fact collide head-on in David Grossman's To the End of the Land. Impact occurs immediately after the last page of the novel, in a brief, untitled note: The author steps forward, strips off the armor of make-believe and informs us that his younger son, Uri, serving in the Israel Defense Forces, was killed on August 12, 2006, "in the final hours of the Second Lebanon War." The news would be tragic under any circumstances; as a coda to a 600-page novel about a woman who's convinced that her younger son, also serving in the IDF, is about to be killed in action, it's devastating.

How much of the emotional force of the fiction is owed to fact? Impossible to say. Many people will begin the book, as I did, already knowing about the death of the author's son. That Grossman succeeds in loosening the grip of that terrible knowledge (I didn't forget it, exactly, but I was able to put it out of my mind) is a testament to his seductive storytelling. He made me believe in an invented world where other outcomes were still conceivable. (In an earlier novel, See Under; Love, Grossman pulled off the remarkable trick of convincing me that instead of being slaughtered in the Drohobych ghetto, Bruno Schulz, the great Polish Jewish writer, jumped into the Baltic Sea and became a salmon.)

Grossman's new novel is dominated by its volatile heroine, Ora, the woman who's certain that her son will soon be dead. A magnificent creation, radiantly alive and dangerously changeable, Ora steals the show. Like most people, she indulges in magical thinking; unlike most people, she allows magical thinking to determine her actions, even to shape her existence. When her son Ofer volunteers for an unspecified military campaign (the present tense of the novel is the spring of 2000 in the midst of the second intifada--after Israel's mid-1990s plague of suicide bombings, but before 9/11 turned terrorism into a global preoccupation), she decides that by avoiding notification of his death, she can keep him alive. It's an absurd idea (especially since Ofer isn't dead)--and yet, to live in Ora's world, to be immersed in the complexities of her personal history and the complementary complexities of daily life in divided, embattled Israel, is to begin to dare to hope that her impossible strategy ("She will be the first notification-refusenik") might possibly succeed: If she isn't home to hear the bad news, whatever it is won't happen.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

She flees Jerusalem, leaving behind her cell phone, and sets off on a hike in the Galilee, vowing to stay away until Ofer is safely home. Accompanying her, more or less against his will, is Avram, whom she's known and loved and been loved by for more than 30 years. As they walk through the spring landscape, we learn all about Ora and her tattered family life, about Ofer and his older brother, about her estranged husband, Ilan. We also learn about Avram: He and Ilan and Ora are three sides of a romantic triangle, a messy, unresolved affair that began when they all met as teenagers in a hospital isolation ward during the 1967 Six-Day War. Eventually we learn that Avram is Ofer's biological father, though they've never laid eyes on each other. As Ora puts it, "We're really a complicated case."

As a young man, Avram was talented and effusive, full of fierce artistic ambition. Then he was captured by the Egyptians during the Yom Kippur War and tortured, cruelly and repeatedly.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Journey to the Son
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?