Picks and Pans Review: A Perfect Peace

updated 07/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Amos Oz

For those who are curious about what life is like on a kibbutz in Israel, this novel provides a complex, engrossing account. It's 1965, and the children of the first settlers are grown-ups. Here is the way one character sees them: "Neither Asiatics nor Europeans. Neither Gentiles nor Jews. Neither idealists nor on the make. What can their lives mean to them, raised in this whirlwind of history, this place-in-progress, this experiment-under-construction, this merest blueprint of a country..." The main plot centers around a young man, Yonatan, who has a beautiful wife, Rimona. His father is a former cabinet minister who now heads up the kibbutz. Yonatan's mother is an energy-packed harridan. Yonatan works as a mechanic in the tractor shed, but he longs for a different life. One rainy winter night a miserable little fink (he calls himself that) shows up, talks incessantly (mostly quoting Spinoza) and gradually makes a place for himself. He becomes Yonatan's friend and Rimona's lover and Yonatan flees to the desert. Oz, the author of In the Land of Israel and other books, lives and writes on a kibbutz. He provides brilliant portraits of a handful of characters. The dialogue is often tough and cynical, as when the guy in charge of the cows says to the newcomer, "If by any chance you find any justice around here, come tell me about it right away so we can nip it in the bud." Oz is an interesting, original writer. Several of his characters serve as narrators of this story, taking turns, adding thoughtful layers of depth and meaning. The result is a suspenseful and moving novel that never glosses over the harsh truths about a "mob of the strangest individuals who ever pretended to be a people." (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $16.95)

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