When he tells her he has discovered that he is impotent, she deploys the sensual resourcefulness of an experienced woman to arouse him, and she conceives a child by him. This second son, Ofer, is raised by the now reconciled Jerusalem couple, Avram refusing to see him or even to hear about him.
To the End of the Land Summary & Study Guide
The twenty-one-year-old Ofer, just discharged from his military service, volunteers to go back on a combat mission in the occupied territories. She sets off on a hike through the Galilee on which Ofer was supposed to have accompanied her, stopping in Tel Aviv, where she virtually kidnaps Avram to come along with her instead of their son. Their trek through the northern part of the country then takes up the rest of the novel, though the often strenuous walking is combined with emotionally freighted talking that reaches back into the past.
This success is strategically important in regard to the larger political themes of the book. Ora is by no means a post-Zionist or anti-Zionist—at one point she even expresses contempt for what she sees as the ostentatious self-righteousness of the leftist women protesting at checkpoints—but she is viscerally, obsessively a mother, and in this role she provides an acutely critical perspective on the macho culture of the Israeli military.
Not like they were before. And that boy he used to be had been lost to her forever the moment he was nationalized—lost to himself, too. There is some truth in this, but it is not the whole story. Parenthood in novels is usually peripheral to other roles played by adults, unless the novel is concerned with a conflicted or psychologically fraught relationship between parent and child. Grossman has an uncanny ability to recall in total vividness all the meaningful moments in the life of a child from infancy on—the moments that most parents almost forget. The hand slowly opened and revealed to Ora for the first time its conch-like, enigmatic palm—What have you brought me, my child, from the deep, dark universe?
The sunlight coming through the window shone through his ears, and they were orange and translucent. But the story that she tells Avram is protected from any slippage into sentimentality also by its range: it is not in the least limited to the raptures of parenthood. If parenthood holds deep satisfactions, it is also one of the most challenging tasks that any of us ever undertakes, and Ora is constantly aware of the steep challenges, and of the punishment she has absorbed in struggling to meet them.
Like parenthood, this is not a subject that novelists commonly treat. Who hates us in the world? In Israel, one must grant, such a question has definite geopolitical ramifications, and the little boy compels his mother to list for him all the countries that are directly hostile to Israel and then all the countries that are Arab or Muslim. We lamentably inhabit a world in which terrifying things happen from which we would like to shield our children. In this way, the trials of motherhood that Ora experiences are both distinctively Israeli and also the trials of motherhood everywhere, writ large.
The story of Ofer that Ora tells Avram is intended, in the manic impulse of her maternal superstition, to ward off harm from her child. But she also means it to foster in Avram a sense of connection with his son that he has resisted for twenty-one years.
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He has never really recovered from his shattering ordeal as a prisoner of war. He had been an exuberantly intellectual young man with grand ambitions to become a writer. After his return from captivity, he can neither write nor recover any sense of purpose. He supports himself by washing dishes in a restaurant, and his sole intimate relationship is with a quirky bohemian girlfriend much younger than himself who is intermittently present in his life.
You live because you live. Because you happen not to be dead. All the talking, then, in To the End of the Land proves to be remarkably resonant and, in regard to Avram, efficacious as well. But what about the walking?
There is a paradox at the heart of the novel. Avram, for his part, has long since withdrawn from any sense of connection with the collective realm, hunkered down in his meager living-because-he-lives, befuddled by a steady dose of painkillers and sleeping pills. Yet their trek through the woods and the fields of northern Israel is a long encounter with the landscape of the country, rendered in loving detail by Grossman, and it confirms a sense of intimate attachment to it.
This intimacy is reinforced by their feeling that they are virtually alone in the natural landscape, a feeling interrupted only in two episodes in which they encounter two very different, and bizarre, hikers. Grossman finely renders the natural world in which they are immersed through the prism of their perceptions and their states of being:.
Daylight burgeons as they lie on the edge of a field, bright shades of green unfurl as far as the eye can see, and they wake from a nap, still blanketed with a gossamer of dreams. They are the only two people in the world, there is no one else, and the earth steams with a primeval scent, and the air hums with the rustle of tiny creatures, and the mantle of dawn still hangs overhead, lucent and dewy, and their eyes light up with little smiles of not-yet-fear and not-yet-themselves. The immersion in nature, understandably, contributes to a gradual awakening of desire in these two people who have not been lovers for more than two decades.
He presses her against his body and she feels his force. She thinks again of how much good this journey is doing him, and her. They walk on, at first hand in hand, then they let go.
Threads of new awkwardness stretch out between them, and nature itself winks behind their backs and plays nasty tricks on them, scattering yellow clods of asters and groundsel, blanketing purple clover and pink flax, erecting stalks of huge—but smelly—purple arum flowers, sprinkling red buttercups, and hanging baby oranges and lemons on the trees around them.
Suddenly we want more. Suddenly we know that it is possible to want more, that life is greater than what grows dim with us and steadily fades away. It is uncertain how Schulz died. I felt that I must redeem his needless, brutal death. The novel, which moves between Israel and wartime Poland, is divided into four sections, with elements of magical realism and little semblance of linearity.
He was establishing an orchestra that I did not know before—an orchestra of nuance and of language. Despite his growing literary fame, Grossman continued to work as a radio journalist, anchoring a morning news program and hosting an evening show on the city of Jerusalem. In , the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the occupation, the newsweekly Koteret Rashit asked him to write a report on conditions in the West Bank. In the West Bank, Grossman listened to old women, students, teachers, refugees, writers. The result of this sustained act of empathy filled an entire issue of Koteret Rashit.
Grossman told Israeli readers that the occupation, far from stable, was breeding permanent hatreds and creating the conditions for a violent revolt. Many Israelis hated what they read; Grossman described, among other things, how Israeli soldiers demolished the houses of suspected opponents. He received threats, and his car was sabotaged. Grossman wanted to report this development prominently on his morning radio show, but his editor disagreed; the minister of security had issued an order to suppress the news.
The next day, Grossman read in the paper that he had been fired. The Army conducted an investigation, Grossman says, and shared its conclusions with the father. But, at the same time, in his fiction Grossman withdrew from politics. There was another reason for the turn inward: repetition and corruption had drained political language of its vitality. The strain of fantasy in his novels, which released some of his most evocative storytelling, also had a sentimental aspect, allowing him to evade what a flinty realist would put at the center of his work: political despair.
The implications of his groundbreaking dispatches on the West Bank gradually came to inform Israeli government policy during negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Then, after —with the second intifada and the worst years of suicide terrorism in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, prompting violent Israeli reprisals—the path to a solution was closed off. Grossman stopped seeing his Palestinian friends after it became too dangerous, and their phone conversations grew sadder and less frequent.
How can you bring into this softness of life—tenderness, familial life—how can you bring in the atrocities of occupation, of dealing with occupied people, humiliating them? There is this silence, as if both sides had agreed on not asking questions, not telling things. This is, on a larger scale, our inability as a state to contain the question of the occupation. We cannot really settle it with our self-image. An escape into apathy and false security was as intolerable to him as terror is to most people.
The violence of the early aughts, as his sons entered the Army, brought a new sense of peril that was both political and private, and in Grossman turned to the only strategy he knew to avoid being paralyzed by it—writing a novel.
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The book would combine two spheres: the first was ha-matsav , with its existential fear; the second was the life of an Israeli family. This is where my real libido is. Ora is a middle-aged woman, the mother of two sons, Adam and Ofer, whose husband, Ilan, has recently left her. With Ilan gone, Adam grown, and Ofer, who had been on the verge of demobilization, suddenly vanished on an emergency call-up, Ora is alone in their Jerusalem house, going out of her mind worrying about Ofer.
Ora contacts an old lover, Avram, who has become a recluse, and conscripts him to join her in a hike along the Israel Trail. And Abraham immediately collaborated. Where would I go? Tell me, where else could I get so annoyed about everything, and who would want me anyway? I believe this is the essence of great literature: the more parochial it is, the more universal it is.
In July, there was a rally at Independence Park, in Jerusalem, on behalf of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal who has been held by Hamas for four years. Their opinions differed, but they had all read it.
But it was true. A degree of disappointment among some Israelis was unavoidable. Grossman is no longer allowed to be simply a novelist. The left-wing writer whose son fell in combat has become a secular prophet. A hundred thousand people filled the square, in Tel Aviv, where the murder took place.
Look at what befell us. Look at what befell the young, bold, passionate country we had here, and how, as if it had undergone a quickened aging process, Israel lurched from infancy and youth to a perpetual state of gripe, weakness, and sourness.
The land at the end of the world - Griffith Review
It is preposterous to expect to hear wisdom emerge from them. Our hearts will only open up to one another slightly, and this has a tremendous power. The greatness of his words and the nobility of the way he stood there confronting the nation and confronting his own fate was the only moment in recent years that this nation rose to something moral and spiritual, where we all stood together looking at the tragedy of our existence.
It was really his finest hour.
In the speech, as in his articles and books, Grossman used the language of a man who belongs to Israel. The words cut, but they came from an insider, a family member whose personal loss gave him a special standing, even among people who vehemently disagreed with him. Bereavement is holy in this country.