Unlike Yehoshua's previous books, the motives of his central character in his fifth novel, Open Heart
, appear unrelated to the larger social changes in Israeli society. During an assignment to India, Dr. Benjamin Rubin falls in love with the country's spiritual mystery and the nurturing sexuality of his patient's mother. In looking to the East for enlightenment, he neglects his religious heritage, even as others are reclaiming traditional Jewish culture. As he immerses himself in newfound religion, one is forced to wonder if Rubin is genuinely acknowledging the self's larger place in the cosmos or is simply on an opportunistic venture to mask his own impoverished spirit.
From Publishers Weekly
The irrational, untamable power of love becomes almost palpable in Israeli novelist Yehoshua's intense novel of forbidden passion, obsession and spiritual yearning. Its introspective, ironic narrator, Benjamin Rubin (Benjy), an internist in surgery at a Tel Aviv hospital, is asked by the hospital director, Dr. Lazar, to accompany him to a remote town in India where Lazar's college-dropout daughter, Einat, is suffering from acute hepatitis and urgently needs medical care. Benjy, 29, falls madly in love?not with Einat, whose life he saves, but with Dori, Lazar's matronly, spoiled, ordinary, 50-ish wife, whom he beds once. When she rejects his passion as impossible and silly, Benjy hastily marries hippie-like, kibbutz-raised Michaela, who espouses Hindu religious concepts and works with the "sidewalk doctors" of Calcutta. They have a daughter, Shivi, but, despite their sexual rapport and mutual affection, theirs is not a marriage of love. When Lazar requires open-heart surgery, Benjy, who takes part in the operation, must ask himself whether he truly wants to save the man or whether he wishes Lazar dead so that he can pursue his impossible love for Dori. At times, Benjy's minute self-analysis is wearying, and it's tempting to dismiss his problems as a passing Oedipal fixation. Mostly, however, Yehoshua (Mr. Mani) mingles fascinating medical detail with the story of one man seeking to open his own heart to life's possibilities, including pain. Author tour.
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