Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fiction is, and Should Be, Fiction

A.B. Yehoshua, at 70, is an Israeli novelist. Just having completed a new work of fiction, "Friendly Fire," that deals with one week of two Israelis relating to the Arab-Israel conflict, he was interviewed by the Washington Post.

Here are some excerpts from Looking at Israel Through Many Eyes

...I am very disturbed by what is happening to the Israeli Arabs. Generally, in these 60 years, we could find a modus vivendi between the two sides. Both sides knew there would be terrible consequences if there were a clash between the majority and minority. My great hope was that with peace they could have full integration. But unfortunately after the Lebanon war there appears to be many cracks and splits.

...The problem is there is so much confusion about the term Jew. I tried to define the term. Jew is the name of a people -- in a minimal way. A Jew is a child of a Jewish mother. It is not like a Christian, who is someone who believes in Christ, or a Muslim, who is someone who believes in the Koran. And the religious people will recognize that a totally secular Jew is still a Jew. When you say Jewishness, all is Jewishness here. . . the Jew in the diaspora is a voluntary Jew. He doesn't have any power over another Jew. I must also face problems that Jews in the diaspora will never have to face. I must decide how much a Jew must torture a Hamas terrorist in order to get information about a bomb that is coming. A Jew in the diaspora will never have to struggle with the problem of selling arms to a murderous regime in Africa to improve the unemployment in our arms industry. . . .

It's as if there are two identities. Israel is what we are doing all the time -- the corruption, et cetera. Then there is the good Jewishness, a box of spicy values you open and say, how wonderful. . . . Even by such things as the angle at which the Israeli soldier holds his rifle in a stormy demonstration of Palestinians along the barrier, this is the place in which Jewish values are judged and determined every day.

What can fiction accomplish in portraying a conflict that is all around you that nonfiction cannot?

Fiction can bring up the complexities, give options that people would never think about. Fiction also introduces human beings. In my first novel, "The Lover," there was an Arab boy who worked in a garage...And I was proud I was able to bring Arab characters to my novels. Of course they are complex, they have problems, but they are real. Fiction can enlarge.

But it is always fiction, right?

1 comment:

zaragoza said...

So, I don't actually suppose it will have effect.