There is an unmistakable note of tragedy mingled with hope running through David Grossman’s work. A political moderate, Grossman has devoted his career, in celebrated essays and works of fiction, to voicing arguments in favour of a two-state solution to the conflict between Palestine and his native Israel. He has reflected passionately on the dull, horrific reality of life in the region, where, as he stated in Writing in the Dark, Jews (and indeed Palestinians) inherit ‘a bitter knowledge, passed through the umbilical cord, of the concreteness and the actuality and the daily availability of death’. An earlier collection of essays was entitled, bluntly, Death as a Way of Life (2003).
In 2006, that reality acquired a tragic intensity for Grossman when his son Uri was killed fighting in the war with Lebanon. This latest book is a marked retreat from the political circumstances that cost him so dearly; it engages on a more personal