Why have the narrator’s father and his former best friend Shimon not spoken to each other for the past thirty years? Back in the Soviet Union they fought side by side in the underground movement. Now Shimon, who was forced to spend many years in a Soviet camp, lives in Jerusalem, and the narrator’s father is dead.
This is only one of the intriguing puzzles from the past that the narrator, Vladimir Vertlib’s alter ego, tries to resolve during an emotional trip to Israel, where the author himself lived for two years as a child.The trip turns into a conduit for the protagonist’s unsettling and dramatic confrontation with his past. In the 1980s, his family had turned its back on Israel in disappointment and ended up in Vienna, where the Waldheim affair and coming to terms with the past were central issues dividing Austrian society. Israel remained the land of ambivalent yearning that reflected his fragile identity as an immigrant, a Jew and an Austrian of Russian descent.
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