Archive for the ‘Mandelman, Avner’ Category

Trevor reviews The Debba, by Avner Mandelman

October 6, 2010

The 2010 Giller shortlist is out, but the Shadow Jury has not finished reviewing the longlist. We will do our best to complete longlist reviews so please stay tuned. Trevor Berrett has reviewed The Debba — here are some excerpts for a full review check here. Here are some of Trevor’s thoughts:

If it weren’t for its inclusion on the Giller Prize longlist, early in my reading I would have abandoned The Debba (2010). Somewhere on the internet, KevinfromCanada made an analogy between a falling tree and the development of one’s opinion of a book. At first, the tree may swivel in all directions, but once it starts to fall one way, it is very hard to right it and get it to fall in another. Early in this book, due to cumbersome prose (not the politics, which might have some readers throwing the book out the window), annoyance caused the tree to sway to the “dislike” side. After that, I kept picking out perceived flaws, the tree fell faster, and I think it’s fair to say that nothing came along with the muscle to maneuver the tree any other direction. The book has many strengths (and the last 100 pages are much better than any of the others), but on page after page the clumsy writing sucked out my will to explore the heart of the book.

The Debba begins in Toronto in 1977. After seven years of not speaking to his father, our narrator David Starkman gets a phone call informing him that his father, Isser, was murdered in his shop in Israel; the murderer — and many are positive that it was an Arab — is still at-large. The baseless assumption that his father was murdered by an Arab upsets David. In fact, when he left Israel he fled with a passionate distaste for it, and we get a sense that his efforts to alienate himself shattered the expectations of his parents, and maybe of his fellow countrymen:

Two months before, four years after arriving in Canada (sponsored by Uncle Yitzchak, against the violent objections of my father and my mother’s painful silence), I had become a Canadian citizen. A day after I falsely swore allegiance to the foreign monarch, I went to the Israeli Embassy on Bloor Street and asked to give up my Israeli citizenship.

The consul, a Mr. Iddo Ronen, was not amused. “David Starkman? The son of Isser?”

I didn’t answer. What was there to say?

“The Isser Starkman? From forty-eight?”

“Yes. So what?”

If that gets you interested, read all of Trevor’s review and then read on.


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