From Publishers Weekly
Two moving books by Avnery, originally published in 1949 and 1950, appear here in their first English translation. A former member of the Israeli Knesset and outspoken peace activist, Avnery was the first Israeli to meet with Yasser Arafat in 1982. Fighting in Israel's 1948 war of independence, he sent battlefield dispatches to an Israeli newspaper describing the fluctuating morale of his platoon. As a new recruit, Avnery's enthusiasm quickly dampens, and he reflects on the cruel arbitrariness of war when a comrade dies next to him during their first battle. After another important and successful battle, Avnery writes of how survivor's guilt leaves him unable to face the parents of fallen comrades. In the book's most profound moments, Avnery describes how his friends risked their lives to save his when he was critically wounded. His excruciating recovery is told in the book's more ambitious and controversial novelistic second half, which also suggests that Israel should form an alliance with the Arab national movement. Although written more than half a century ago, Avnery's colorfully detailed eyewitness accounts of battle are still potent, authentic and relevant. Photos, maps. (Feb.)
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Avnery is a longtime peacenik who has been a fixture of the Israeli political and literary scene for decades. As a 25-year-old soldier, he served throughout the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, including the drive to relieve the besieged Jewish-held portions of Jerusalem. Originally published as two separate works, this book, in its first half, is a gritty and brutally honest memoir of a confusing war as seen through the eyes of a young and idealistic fighter. Avnery describes the prolonged stretches of boredom interrupted by short, violent episodes during which the enemy soldiers are often unseen, and deserted Arab villages are a reminder of the toll taken upon civilians. In the preface to the new edition, Avnery acknowledges that his views of the struggle were a bit narrow and have been contradicted by subsequent revelations. The second half of the book is a fictionalized account that was widely criticized in Israel as “unpatriotic” because it offers an unromantic view of the conflict in which Israeli soldiers and the struggle itself are portrayed in realistic rather than heroic terms. Combined, these narratives provide a hard-edged look at the effects of combat on young and largely inexperienced men and women. --Jay Freeman