Talking to the Enemy
By Avner Mandelman
(Seven Stories Press, Hardcover, 9781583226698, 144pp.)
Publication Date: July 2005
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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shaped the consciousness of a generation, but never before has it been brought to life in such vivid and telling prose. Part Tim O’Brien and part Bernard Malamud, Avner Mandelman’s Talking to the Enemy ranges from boisterously entertaining tales of domestic squabbles to dark narratives from disillusioned soldiers. Awarded the Jewish Book Award when it was published in Canada and supplemented with recent stories, Talking to the Enemy is the powerful American debut of an international favorite.
"Pity" draws the reader through the descending layers of horror of an Israeli soldier who is party to an assassination attempt gone terribly wrong. In "Terror" a man recalls a traumatic childhood incident that taught him family comes first—before justice, before fear. On a lighter note, "Mish-Mash" is a comical tornado set off when a winning lottery ticket is discovered in a less-than-conventional family, best described as "Sholem Aleichem writes Peyton Place on speed" (Montreal Gazette). Underneath their often brash exteriors Mandelman’s characters search for reconciliation and fulfillment in a land where conflict is a part of everyday life. Mandelman ensnares readers in intense plot-driven narratives that are pierced through with unexpected and ingenious twists. Beneath the surface of the often sparse prose lies evocative, unanswered questions about humanity. Every story delivers a thoroughly engrossing read with an unforgettable ending.