Friday, October 23, 2020

Review of ‘The Last Interview’ by Eshkol Nevo

The protagonist of The Last Interview by Eshkol Nevo, translated by Sondra Silverston (Other Press, October 2020) was supposed to be writing a novel, but instead he is answering a very long interview sent to him by the editor of a website. Faced with the typical questions given to a novelist, such as ‘Did you always know you would be a writer?’ the unnamed protagonist decides to answer each and every question truthfully, with nothing held back. 

Answer by answer we learn more about his life, about his broken marriage and his daughter who has run away from home. About his ongoing war with dysthymia and his chronic low-grade feeling of depression. About his childhood friend who has disappeared, and much more. Family and friends play a huge role in these answers and, as he keeps on writing, what was intended as a simple, but in-depth interview becomes a story itself. Not only that, the protagonist realizes that he has no idea where this story will end.

‘How autobiographical are your books?’ is one of the questions.

The readers of the protagonist’s novels want to know what is real, and what isn’t in his books. By asking this question, readers show that they are “determined to get to the biographical core of the book, based on the erroneous assumption that it will help them understand it.”

As readers of The Last Interview, we may be asking the very same question. While we never know the name of the book’s protagonist, his answers tell us that he is the grandson of Levi Eshkol, the third prime minister of Israel. Eshkol Nevo, the real-life author of The Last Interview, is in fact the late prime minister’s grandson. When asked in the book what legacy his grandfather had left him, the fictional author answers that no matter how hard he tried, he was never able to mourn him personally. Was this also the case in real life?

The fictional author, in his apparent role as Nevo’s alter ego, responds to his readers’ questions by saying “the more he ‘lies’, in biographical terms, the closer he gets to the deep truth that is beyond the facts.” And the opposite could be true as well, he says. 

The book’s narrative walks a thin line between truth and lies, between fact and fiction, but The Last Interview is far from confusing. In its unique format, the ‘interview’ provides answers that dig deeper and deeper into the protagonist’s life, with all its love and misery, friendships and heartaches, and the contradictory facets of his public and private identities. And in the process, The Last Interview proves to be a highly engrossing and page-turning read.

Eshkol Nevo is an Israeli writer who has published a collection of short stories, five novels, and a work of non-fiction. His novel Homesick was awarded the Book Publishers Association Gold Prize (2005) and the FFI-Raymond Wallier Prize at the Salon du Livre (Paris, 2008). Nevo is the grandson of Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, for whom he was named.

Sondra Silverston is a native New Yorker who has lived in Israel since 1970. She has translated works by Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, and Eshkol Nevo. Her translation of Amos Oz’s Between Friends won the 2013 National Jewish Book Award for fiction.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Intriguing Plotline That Is Chock-full of Significant Detail

There is a vivid, life-like element to Valley Of Thracians by Ellis Shuman. Perhaps it is because of the author's expertise on Bulgaria, or because of the timeline of history that is refreshingly accurate. Regardless of the reason, the end product has proved to be something quite special.

As the novel opens we meet Simon Matthews, a man on a mission. Simon's character evokes the reader's empathy as his heart-wrenching situation comes to light. He has traveled to Bulgaria to answer a question that had been plaguing him, what has happened to his grandson?

"It was a feeling he had -a gut feeling that was burning inside him and growing in intensity from day to day."

No body had ever been produced from his grandson's death. And as Simon begins his quest, digging into the truth behind the mysterious death, he uncovers something incredibly sinister.

"The bus speeds east through the dark and forbidding Bulgarian night. The rhythm of the tires on the asphalt pavement soothes my worries, and I close my eyes, eager to forget the strange happenings that have led me to this unexpected journey."

With the help of Sophia Ivanova, an expert in Thracian culture, he is able to traverse throughout Bulgaria on an amazing journey filled with the languid rhythms of culture, and subtle clues of muddled deception.

"Simon wiped away a tear that threatened to cascade down his face, something that surprised him each time he thought deeply about his beloved grandson even after all this time."

Shuman's writing style ensconces the reader in an intriguing plot-line that is chock-full of significant detail. His past experiences provide a compelling narrative. Valley Of Thracians is a riveting fiction debut that will enrich each reader to the savoir-faire of Bulgaria.

Originally published on Bookend Chronicles in August 2013.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Israeli Embassy in Bulgaria Promotes "The Burgas Affair"

2020 marks 30 years of restored diplomatic relations between Israel and Bulgaria. On this occasion, the Embassy launched an "I read Israeli authors" campaign—in posts and tweets—in which it presented books published in Bulgarian over the last three decades.

“We have chosen to present the works of some of the most prominent and world-renowned authors from Israel,” the Embassy stated. Bulgarians had already met in person many of the authors, the Embassy noted, including A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, Etgar Keret, and Meir Shalev.

In its series the Embassy highlighted The Burgas Affair. “It intertwines real facts from the investigation with fictional storylines to offer us a tense and intriguing thriller.”

Summing up the promotion, the Embassy said it hoped Bulgarian readers would “find their next read in the rich palette of genres, plots, and stories,” in the Israeli books published in Bulgarian.

Israel and Bulgaria established diplomatic relations in 1948, but Bulgaria cut diplomatic ties with Israel after the Six Day War. Diplomatic relations were restored in 1990.

The Burgas Affair was published in Bulgarian as БYPГАСКАТА АФЕРА by Ciela Books in 2016.

Israel in Bulgaria official Facebook page

Israel in Bulgaria official Twitter account