A woman in her forties is a victim of a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem market. Her body lies nameless in a hospital morgue. She had apparently worked as a cleaning woman at a bakery, but there is no record of her employment. When a Jerusalem daily accuses the bakery of "gross negligence and inhumanity toward an employee," the bakery's owner, overwhelmed by guilt, entrusts the task of identifying and burying the victim to a human resources man. This man is at first reluctant to take on the job, but as the facts of the woman's life take shape - she was an engineer from the former Soviet Union, a non-Jew on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, judging by an early photograph, beautiful - he yields to feelings of regret, atonement, and even love.
At once profoundly serious and highly entertaining, A. B. Yehoshua astonishes us with his masterly, often unexpected turns in the story and with his ability to get under the skin and into the soul of Israel today.
This is not a book about Jerusalem per se. In fact, with a few changes here and there the story could have been located in almost any city that attracts migrant workers and where people have become somewhat blasé to violence and death (and, sadly, there are quite a few such places these days).
The title makes more sense (or less, depending on one's perspective) with Yehoshua's explanation that in all the other translations other than English, the book is titled The Mission of the Human Resources Manager. However, the British and Americans firmly demanded a change of title as they feared the original would be misinterpreted as an instruction manual - so the author agreed to the change "painfully and with great difficulty". (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Claire Messud
Embedded in this simple story are fundamental questions about identity, selfhood, belonging....a work of art by turns absurd, strange and moving.
The writing is beautifully exact and the moral issues delivered with understated authority. Yet the protagonist's circumscribed nature and grinding battles to accomplish his goal can lend the narrative an airless and boxed-in feel.
A moving, unsentimental reckoning with death and renewal.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Tautly composed in a manner akin to Kafka and Babel, Yehoshua's brilliant under-your-skin satire subtly evokes thoughts of war and terrorism, vulnerability and fate, the sacred and the profane.
Starred Review. This short novel's layers reveal themselves only gradually and, once revealed, continue to compel and provoke.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Deborah Winant Sorrow about Yulia This book is a metaphor as it deals with a symbolic existence of nameless people. Only the dead woman has a name. The characters are identified by their functions in the society where they live.The opening paragraph refers to the end of the story... Read More
One of Israel's preeminent writers, the novelist, essayist and playwright Abraham B. Yehoshua (b. 1936)
has been awarded the Israel Prize, the Koret Jewish Book Award, and the National
Jewish Book Award. Born in Jerusalem, he lives in Haifa where he is a professor
of Literature. He studied Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at the Hebrew
University and has since taught at high school and university level. He also
taught in Paris while living there from 1963 to 1967. He is known publicly as A. B. Yehoshua, and familiarly as "Boolie".
When asked about his formative influences he names Franz Kafka, Shmuel Yosef Agnon,
and William Faulkner
Bibliography of Works Available in English (dates are believed to be the first publication dates in English, but with
so many different books published in so many different languages it is quite
possible some are off by a few years).
The daily life of a small town is hardly disturbed by the First World War raging nearby. But this illusion is shattered by the deaths of three innocents. Twenty years on, a policeman still struggles to make sense of the deaths which both torment and sustain him.
Two young friends caught in Lebanons civil war must choose their futures: To stay in the city and consolidate power through crime, or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have known.
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