THE LIBERATED BRIDE by A.B.Yehoshua
Reviewed by Nordeen Morello, Book'em.....take
(October 20, 2005)The
English translation of renowned Israeli novelist A. B.Yehoshua's The Liberated Bride offered
Book-'Em a look into the world of Israeli-Arab daily life. Set in Haifa, the "Orientalist"
scholar Professor Rivlin and his wife Hagit, a prominent local judge, are the protagonists of
this story. They have two grown sons and the book revolves around Rivlin's maniacal obsession
with the unexplained failed marriage of the younger one, Ofer. His quest for uncovering the
truth, the scholar's job as a historian, allows him excursions into Jerusalem, the Palestinian
territories and the village and home of a young, female, Arab student, Samaher. Thus the reader
is introduced to the multiple characters populating The Liberated Bride.
Additional figures are Rivlin’s ailing academic mentor, Hagit’s visiting ex-patriot sister and
brother-in-law, Samaher’s colorful cousin, and Ofer’s former wife’s family and employees.
Professor Rivlin, while avoiding his own scholarly work to pursue his search, seems to unravel before
the readers eyes as numerous sub stories unfold. Under the guise of looking for answers to Ofer's
situation, there is an element of thrill-seeking to his adventures.
If this review feels unsatisfying, then it has suggested our group's response to the book. Many
members did not manage to get through the novel's 500+ pages, losing interest in the overdone writing,
the storyline and/or the characters. Only one member enthusiastically loved this book and loved
Rivlin "for his obsessive lunacy." We felt that the author offered a "slice of life" look at the
complex issues and interactions of the Arabs and Israelis. But we also sensed there was another more
important layer beneath the storyline that escaped our understanding. We asked what message the author
had encoded in these pages as to the "hows" and "whys" of Middle Eastern tensions today.
The expatriate brother-in-law admonishes Rivlin: "You're all terribly spoiled. You think all the tears
in the world belong to you…I'm tired of spoiled Israelis whining all the time…. it's time for Israel to
look beyond its local squabbles." Samaher translates an ancient North African folktale of a snake and
a hyena which ends: "Nobody likes snakes or hyenas…yet if the two of us get together, become friends
and formed a single monster…" Was this a parable for Israel and Palestine? The author also scripts
multiple anti-Arab sentiments into the mouths of Rivlin's academic peers. "They can recite love poems
all night but they're still vipers."
Yehoshua is masterful in the use of symbolism. Eyeglasses, representing perspective and point of view,
appear several times and are broken in a dramatic moment. There are multiple references to boundaries
that conjure up geographic, emotional, physical and figurative bounds all of which are transgressed in
this work. One reader viewed a surprisingly fierce argument between Rivlin and Hagit as a possible
metaphor for Arab/Israeli conflict.
The Liberated Bride was glowingly reviewed by The New York Times and has found responsive and
enthusiastic readers. Perhaps its subject matter was not familiar enough to our group. Perhaps its
length and writing style were ill suited for our "over the summer" reading selection. In sum, perhaps
we did not do it justice. As a choice for your own group: proceed at your own risk.
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