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Mr. Mani (Harvest in Translation) Paperback – May 7, 1993


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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest in Translation
  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 7, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156627698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156627696
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Israeli writer's previous novels ( A Late Divorce ; Five Seasons ) were critically acclaimed in this country; here he offers another richly textured, provocative work. An account of six generations of the Manis, a Jewish family living in the Middle East, the book is arranged in the form of five "conversations," with the speech of only one of the two speakers present on the page. From 1982, the narrative moves backward to 1848, tracing dark domestic dramas occurring against the backdrop of historical events. Speakers--each with a strong, distinctive voice--include a contemporary Israeli woman, a Nazi soldier stationed in Crete during WW II, a British Jewish soldier in Palestine after WW I, a Jewish doctor in Galicia and a Jewish merchant in Athens. Spinning a cat's cradle of complex relationships, Yehoshua reaches beyond realism to the realms of mystery, coincidence and fate. His prose is simple and clear, rising to passages of lyricism and eloquence, as he gradually discloses the tragedy that haunts every generation of the Mani family: a succession of self-destructive, suicidal men and of fathers who die young, leaving emotionally needy children. Hints of a dread secret accrete through the narrative, to be revealed at the close. Yet the novel's message speaks to the indomitable spirit that keeps families alive.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A self-consciously experimental novel from Israeli writer Yehoshua (Five Seasons, A Late Divorce, etc.) in which a family's history is told backwards in one-sided conversations. There are five conversations, each accompanied by a brief foreword and afterword--sort of program notes--that explicate as well as wrap up the story. The conversations themselves, with the exception of the final one, are those of strangers who recall their subsequently significant interventions in the history of the Mani family, currently of Jerusalem but once residents of Greece. Beginning in present-day Israel, Hagar Shiloh, back on the kibbutz where she was reared, tells her mother how she saved Mr. Mani, the father of her lover, from committing suicide. Conversation number two, between a German soldier and his grandmother, takes place on Crete during WW II and accounts for Mr. Mani's childhood escape from the Germans. The third conversation (which has appeared in The New Yorker) details the reprieve that British authorities devise in WW I for the then-current Mr. Mani, on trial for treason. And so genealogy retreats through conversations with a Polish doctor, whose sister's departure from Jerusalem drove Moshe Mani to suicide in 1899, and ends as Avraham Mani, in Athens, confesses in 1848 to his aged rabbi that he has impregnated his widowed daughter-in-law so that the family would continue. Not as dryly schematic as Martin Amis's Time's Arrow, but the structure, however innovative and brilliantly executed, is constraining; and retrohistory too much resembles all those confusing biblical lists of A's begetting B's. Still, an interesting, and certainly challenging, read. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
It was a pleasure to read it.
ido_york@netvision.net.il
I read this book about 8 years ago and I still remember it as a favorite.
Tim Lieder
What might have been confusing becomes even more interesting.
B. L. Melman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Adam Gordon on November 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
I stopped to write a review only because I saw that all five stars were not fully checked. One can like or not like the content of the book, but as a exposition of writing craft it is - bar none - the best book in the world. (Allright, I'll be circumspect, maybe one of the best). It will blow you away and change the way you think about the novel as a literary form. A genius at his best, no less.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Told from the perspective of the people who encounter the Mani family throughout the generations this book is amazing. WHile it takes a few pages to get used to the fact that the Mani men will not be speaking for themselves, once that is accepted this book moves along making you think and feel for these people that you only encounter through the perspective of strangers. What's even better is that you see a character in one generation from one perspective and then in the next chapter the character is considerably younger and there is some one else's perspective. So the father about to commit suicide and who is the mission of the first narrator becomes a child Jew that is an inconvenience to the Nazi character with a conscience of the second chapter. Where most experimental literature is only experimental, this book shows that storytelling and style don't need to be mutually exclusive.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joy Hope Schneider on December 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I concur with other readers that "Mr. Mani" stands in a class of its own. The book, which spans centuries, manages to do so while remaining riveting and vivid. That I remember it years after re-reading it, that I am now trying to write my own novel allows me to now see how truly masterful this book is. If you don't write you may not realize how much had to go into the leaping stories, the profundity of character and the great subject this author took on and completed. Maybe a few on this earth are as blessed with the gift of creation, but they are very few indeed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eric Maroney on February 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Unlike most, if not all "experimental" novels, which rely on a technique for delivery their story, Mr. Mani never allows the technique to control the novel's story, even as it shapes and molds its contours. Perhaps this is one of the most powerful endorsements of Mr. Mani as a masterpiece of a novel. Rather than becoming a confining element, the experiment (which is confining in its scope and shape) gives the novel a massive reach and scale. For in this novel, A.B. Yehoshua has done nothing less than chart the course of modern Jewish history, both in Palestine, the State of Israel, and the Diaspora. But at the same time, while attaining this mighty reach, the novel is extremely intimate. The Mani family and their connection to Jerusalem is unforced and natural. Yehoshua is telling us something about the naturalization of Jews in the Holy Land. Simple categories of identity fail to capture all the nuance of this unique connection. In fact, all binary oppositions are melting into one shade of marvelous gray in this very masterfully written work.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a book that is unforgettable. I read it five years ago and I still have dreams about it. I still find myself in the scenes and epochs that Mr. Mani traverses. I am a professor of literature and so I must read more than most. This book has the hand of God on it. It stands out. Buy it and love it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lucy the Bargain Hunter on May 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
In a nutshell, this book was: brilliant, original, and haunting. I couldn't put it down, but when I got to the end I wished I had not read it. The ending was more horrible than I could have imagined.

Each character is intense and unique; the historical details span centuries and the globe. In those ways, the book is quite a literary feat.

This book follows the genius and madness of the Mani line. It was both wonderful and shocking, giving much food for thought. Where did the madness originate? With each succeeding generation, is it passed on to it's innocent victim only to surface in a different form? What combination of genius and madness will be produced and which will prevail? What is cause and what is affect? Is this the story of mankind? Is this the story of sin and it's affects? When will it end and how?

Since I am not a sholar and probably don't appreciate greatness when I see it, I could only give this book 4 stars because it was a bit too radical for me. I found the ending too shocking, even though it tied the whole book together. Looking for an escape from the madness of real life in the imaginary world of literature, I was not pleased to find that this book only injected a fresh dose of it into my private world.

This book perhaps could be put in the category of contemporary or modern art. Even if you don't like the style or subject, it's great artistic value cannot be argued.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tim Lieder on March 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
I read this book about 8 years ago and I still remember it as a favorite. Really the literary device of telling the story backwards in a series of five one sided conversations about the Mani family works wonders in offsetting and bringing you into their lives. You want to know more about them, but you also think that you have heard enough. And the narrators themselves are fascinating. There's the pregnant girl that thinks she is saving the Mani family and there's the Nazi who is making deals with his commanding officer as well as the British soldier whose sending them back to Europe.

Throughout the book the ironic twists and turns make for compelling reading and even though you are reading it backwards and even though the backwards motif is almost played out by now (Irreversible, Ju Rei, Yellow Raft in Blue Water), it works here.

I never read the original Hebrew version, but I rather liked the English version. A.B. Yehoshua is pretty hit or miss for me, but in the case of this book definitely a hit.
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