By turns subversive and darkly comic, brutal and tender, Ron Leshems debut novel is an international literary sensation, winner of Israels top award for literature and the basis for a prizewinning film. Charged with brilliance and daring, hypnotic in its intensity, Beaufort is at once a searing coming-of-age story and a novel for our timesone of the most powerful, visceral portraits of the horror, camaraderie, and absurdity of war in modern fiction.
Beaufort. To the handful of Israeli soldiers occupying the ancient crusader fortress, it is a little slice of hella forbidding, fear-soaked enclave perched atop two acres of land in southern Lebanon, surrounded by an enemy they cannot see. And to the thirteen young men in his command, Twenty-one-year-old Lieutenant Liraz Erez Liberti is a taskmaster, confessor, and the only hope in the face of attacks that come out of nowhere and missions seemingly designed to get them all killed.
All around them, tension crackles in the air. Long stretches of boredom and black humor are punctuated by flashes of terror. And the threat of death is constant. But in their stony haven, Erez and his soldiers have created their own little world, their own rules, their own language. And here Erez listens to his men build castles out of words, telling stories, telling lies, talking incessantly of women, sex, and dead comrades. Until, in the final days of the occupation, Erez and his squad of fed-up, pissed-off, frightened young soldiers are given one last order: a mission that will shatter all remaining illusionsand stand as a testament to the universal, gut-wrenching futility of war.
Beaufort is a beautifully crafted work of fiction that reads more like an autobiography than a novel. Lethem spent hundreds of hours interviewing Israeli solders stationed in Lebanon before Israel's withdrawal in 2000. The result is a tale that feels entirely authentic. It does exactly what good historical fiction should do – it educates the reader about a specific time and place, making them feel as if they're truly present. The reader develops tremendous empathy for the protagonist and his "kids" (as Liberti refers to his troops). The narrative draws the reader in completely. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Los Angeles Times - Tim Rutten
Leshem's novel captures all that pathos, along with the claustrophobia of an isolated outpost -- isolated even in these technologically advanced times -- the casual heroism, the pervasiveness of fear. Liberti and his comrades call giving into it being "eaten." As they approach withdrawal and the planned demolition of Beaufort, all these emotions build to a shattering climax.
San Francisco Chronicle - Lee Thomas
At home on leave after his first tour, Erez longs to return to the camaraderie, albeit under hellish conditions, of Beaufort: "I liked the darkness, the cold nights, the sweat on my forehead from so much stress, and how the drops trickled to my cheeks. A person who hasn't been there will never get it." That may be so, but a novel as finely wrought as this one brings that hidden world into the light.
An important novel, recommended for all collections.
The hyper-colloquial style may not be lost in translation, but its effects are a bit blunted, and this is not a particularly subtle or inventive book. Nevertheless, Leshem tells a gripping, viscerally powerful tale.
The anxiety and fear are palpable throughout Leshem's vivid novel-you can practically feel the shells explode.
Beaufort Castle, the setting for Beaufort, sits on a
high, rocky outcropping in southern Lebanon (map). Known in Arabic as Shqif Arnun
("High Rock"), it soars 1000 meters (more than 3000 feet) above the Litani River
Valley. Its commanding,
360-degree views have made it perfectly suited for a
command post or lookout, and it has been used as such for over 1000 years.
Not much is known of Beaufort's early history. Given its ideal
location, scholars believe it may have been used in Biblical or Roman times as a
military outpost. Arab occupants enlarged it; and the French Crusaders, who
occupied it beginning in 1139 BCE, made further refinements to its structure.
Passageways and underground chambers were tunneled into the rock, and an inside
cistern was excavated to hold the fort's water supply.
In the early 1980's, Hezbollah used Beaufort as a missile launch
site, shelling settlements in Northern Israel from its heights. The Israelis led a
successful attack on the fort, capturing it in 1982. The...
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