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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ten Thousand Lovers

I read Edeet Ravel's Ten Thousand Lovers. It's the love story of a Canadian woman and an Israeli interrogator who has Arab friends, and is torn by the nature of his job.

It starts very slowly and one can get bored and distracted with overused words such as "beautiful" to describe a smile, a garden, or "my excellent friend" to describe a relationship, or "sweet, open and polite" to describe a young man. Maybe the editor wanted a plain journal type of writing. However this doesn't appeal to some: a friend discarded the book after reading the first few chapters.

However, I plodded through the beginning because I enjoyed the way the author interspersed the story with the etymology of words often common in both Hebrew and Arabic. I now know where the word "assassin" comes from:
The Arabic (and now international) word hashish also acquired new meaning at the time of the Crusades. A twelfth-century sect of hashish users who lived in the area of the Golan Heights and who were in the habit of toking up before they set off on secret misssions to assassinate their various enemies came to be known as hashshashin. Hence the word 'assassin'.

As the author gets deeper into the life of the interrogator, and the relationship between Jews and Arabs living in the same country, we get pulled by very humane feelings, a mixed tone, not the black and white usually portrayed in the media.

The story picks up in a surprising way, and culminates in a poignant ending. The author shows effectively the stream of consciousness of a person overwhelmed by despair, when she counts relentlessly (on two and a half pages), and recreates the situation and the pain caused by the number of people who have died uselessly.

It's worth reading.