Archive for August 15th, 2013

A restless 1960s kibbutznik seeks ‘A Perfect Peace’ in Oz’s inquiry on personal and community strife

August 15, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 15, 2013

Yonatan Lifshitz, age 26, isn’t sure where his destiny lies. But in the winter of 1965, Lifshitz — Yoni to friends and family — becomes convinced that he must break away from the communal Israeli farm where he was born and raised.

Lifshitz’s escape is both aided and delayed by the arrival at Kibbutz Granot of a mysterious young man named Azariah Gitlin. The gregarious foreigner makes quite a contrast with Lifshitz, a taciturn Israeli native. One thing they have in common, however, is their grandiose, unfocused ambitions.

They also come to share the social circle of the insular Kibbutz Granot. Yolek, a lion in both literal and figurative winter, is the patriarch of the Lifshitz clan and a co-founder of the kibbutz; he’s also a Labor Party official who once served in the Israeli cabinet. Yolek takes an immediate liking to Gitlin, an affection that is soon echoed by Yoni’s emotionally distant wife, Rimona.

The action in A Perfect Peace, the 1982 novel by Israeli author Amos Oz, spans a little more than a year. Gitlin finds his place at the kibbutz as Lifshitz works up the nerve to leave it — an adventure that seems liable to plunge the other characters into chaos. When Yolek passes the kibbutz reins to Srulik, his longtime associate, the former struggles to come to grips with his waning influence over family, community and nation as his successor strives to find his feet. Yolek’s friend and rival, the seemingly ineffectual Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, visits the kibbutz and is lectured by a wild-eyed Gitlin. (“If we Jews hate each other so much, why be surprised that the Gentiles hate us?” the young man asks feverishly.) The question of Yoni’s paternity, and of Yolek’s possible role in driving away his wife Hava’s other lover, is relitigated. Read the rest of this entry »

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