14 reasons you should read Homesick

I just finished reading Homesick by Eshkol Nevo. You should to. Here are some reasons why. *Note – They are not listed in order of importance. Also, there are some serious-ish spoilers in here, so if you haven’t read this book, go read it really quick and then come back.

  1. It was written by Eshkol Nevo, grandson of Levi Eshkol.
  2. Nevo does a good job of depicting what life is like in Israel. Naturally, it is centered around a number of conflicts. The book is set in 1995, but many of the issues are the same today. You have the religious vs. secular conflict, the left vs. the right, Tel Aviv vs. Jerusalem, and even Hapoel vs. Beitar. And of course, the whole Israeli/Palestinian thing.
  3. Nevo writes eloquently about margins. He writes about people who are on the margins, and how they are usually overlooked. At one point Noa, one of the main characters, is looking at a picture she took, and notices a young Palestinian boy in the corner who is glaring at the camera. She had never noticed him before, and she wonders what he was so angry about. Nevo reminds us (through the words of the photography professor at Bezalel), “no frame has only one story; always look for other stories around the edges.”
  4. Nevo captures the essence of Jerusalem – “on the one hand, it’s so beautiful, but on the other, a little too intense.”
  5. Nevo captures the essence of Tel Aviv – “The air outside was dripping.” And, “There’s a new place that opened not far from here, with a DJ who only plays film soundtracks.”
  6. It’s a book about Castel. How often does that happen.
  7. Bamba features prominently in the plot.
  8. Nevo puts the “situation” (as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fondly and frequently referred to) in its proper place. On the margins. Usually when people hear the words “conflict” and “Israel,” they automatically think of the conflict with the Palestinians. That conflict is dealt with in this book, but it is only one of many, and certainly not the most important one. This is not to say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict belongs on the margins, but it is an honest assessment of where it is for most Israelis. People outside of Israel are usually shocked to discover this, but most Israelis do not spend all their time thinking about the conflict with the Palestinians. Actually, they probably try to think about it as little as possible. They spend most of their time thinking about other conflicts, closer to home. Also, about Kochav Nolad.
  9. Nevo uses cool narratological devices. The aforementioned Noa is a photography student, and she narrates part of the story while looking through her old photo albums and talking about the pictures in them. Also, there are Greek chorus-like interludes throughout the book which are awesome.
  10. Nevo writes eloquently (achingly even) about longing, in all of its forms. Israelis and Palestinians are both haunted by ghosts of the past, but in different ways.
  11. Nevo includes the story of Saddiq, a Palestinian worker who sees the house he used to live in, before he and his family fled during the war of 1948. At one point, he sets out to go into the house that used to be his home, the house that he had not been in since he was a small child, but he is stopped by a roadblock. Immediately after this, Nevo inserts a small exegesis of the story of Naboth’s field. This is genius. Eventually, Saddiq does go into the house and meets the Kurdish-Israeli family that lives in it. The grandfather of the family, who is old and senile, mistakes Saddiq for his son who died many years before. He is told that Saddiq is not his son, but he will not listen, and finally says, “Look at how well he knows the house! Only a child knows his house like that, isn’t that true, ibni?”
  12. Nevo captures the essence of Tiberius – “The city is sooty and neglected. Balconies are on the verge of collapse. But the large yeshiva building is freshly painted.”
  13. If you have ever lived in Israel, it will make you homesick.
  14. Nevo wrote this passage which is awesome. It is kind of a manifesto by one of the characters: “I want to get turned on by little things. Walking barefoot on the sand. Eating the cone after the ice-cream’s gone. Colourful graffiti on a dirty wall. New music I never heard before. Not shaving. Shaving after a long time of not shaving and running my hand over my smooth cheek. I want to get turned on by all those little things. Not to let them pass me by without noticing them…I want to read more. Ride my bike more. Get on better with my sister. I want to look people in the eye more. Speak the truth more. And, besides, I want to go home.”
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2 Responses to 14 reasons you should read Homesick

  1. Sally Manhard says:

    Thanks for the good recommendation –

  2. Pingback: My Year in Reading – 2012 | joshjulieblog

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