Limassol by Yishai Sarid. Published by Europa Editions 2010. Crime Fiction. Translated from the Hebrew.
Limassol is a noir unlike many you've read or will read. It tells the story of an unnamed Mossad agent involved in an operation to snare a terrorist connected to a once-famous writer named Daphna. The agent, a troubled interrogator with a fizzling marriage, presents himself to Daphna as a writing student, but she knows something is up. To get to the terrorist, the agent must get to know Hani, Daphna's close friend and the terrorist's father. Daphna asks for the agent's help with Hani, who is dying, and with her son Yotam, wasting away from drug addiction and in trouble with some thugs. The agent agrees to help. Meanwhile, the man, whose marriage is falling apart due to the stress of his job, finds himself drawn more and more to Daphna and sympathizing with Hani in ways he hadn't expected. But he has to do his job. Or does he?
This is not the easiest book to get into. The tone is dry and matter of fact, almost distant, yet sticks very closely to the agent's thoughts and point of view. It's almost as though he's alienated from himself, from his own feelings. He's doing difficult, dangerous work interrogating prisoners, and it doesn't always go well; in fact, everything he does seems to go wrong more than anything else. At the same time he's treading water at home, trying to connect to his wife and son who are ebbing away from him. Then, there's Daphna, and Hani, and even Yotam, to whom the agent feels drawn and in whose lives he quickly becomes deeply involved.
That said, I still really enjoyed Limassol and would recommend it. I say it was hard to get into but I was halfway through before I knew it, and totally committed to seeing how this story ended. And author Sarid asks some difficult questions about the Israel-Palestine relationship/conflict. He presents a pretty bleak picture of how different peoples' lives have been affected and sometimes ruined by the stress inherent in their society, but he does offer a little hope for our unnamed hero. Limassol isn't the kind of book that will having you madly flipping pages, but it's one you'll want to finish once you start.
It's been nominated for a 2012 Impac Award.
This is my seventh book for the 2012 Europa Challenge.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.