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The Man Who Fell Into a Puddle: Israeli Lives Paperback – March 9, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037572477X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724770
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,964,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Throughout my life I have written about Israeli traumas and have seen how new lives are built upon ruins," writes Israeli journalist Sarna, though these spare, wistful portraits focus more on loss and quiet despair than on rebuilding. In one essay, a Russian immigrant homesick for his native Leningrad gets into an auto accident. Bleeding and wild-eyed, he runs off into the desert and isn't heard from again. In another piece, a former Israeli paratrooper who grew up in an orphanage learns that his mother is alive and living with a Palestinian husband in Jordan-and confronts her in an astonishing encounter. Another man, who fled the Holocaust as child, explains that the worst terror he ever endured was actually in Israel-where he spent 20 years in a psychiatric hospital. For the most part, Sarna avoids imposing larger meanings or pat interpretations. When he does look for epiphanies, as in the title essay about an artist's recovery from depression, the pieces feel a bit strained and sentimental. Though the Palestinian conflict comes up in a few of the essays, it's usually the older tragedies of Jewish history that weigh heavily on the subjects: in one of the most moving, Sarna traces the downward spiral of a childhood acquaintance, a son of Holocaust survivors, who dies alone and virtually penniless in the United States. Together, these deftly written, often piercing stories form a complicated, sometimes contradictory tableau of Israeli life.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Sarna, an Israeli journalist, offers portraits of 14 Israeli men and women whose lives are permeated by fear and anger in a land without peace. Profiles include a paratrooper who ran away from an orphanage when he was eight and as an adult meets the mother he barely remembers living among Arabs; a teacher awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Berlin 50 years after he earned it; a Jewish man born in Syria and confined to a psychiatric hospital for 31 years before a relative took him to France; and a woman who jumped from a rocky ledge to her death, leaving behind a book entitled "The Price of Honor" and a letter addressed to her husband--a letter that he does not comprehend. Originally published in Israel in Hebrew, the book is an exceptional and potent work. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steve Kettmann on February 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for straightforward polemic, or boiled-down geopolitical bromides, Igal Sarna has nothing to offer you. But if you are moved by elegant, minimalist tales of real people caught up in devastating currents of history and conflict, this is a great book. I gave it a rave review in the San Francisco Chronicle when it came out.

There is a kind of music in the sadness of these stories. It's a mournful, fraught music that at times becomes almost unbearable, but in a way that should be welcomed. Sarna's own experience of the madness of war and of life in Israel anchors these tales. It provides a necessary ballast, which may explain why, curiously, Sarna's account of his own glimpse of life as a soldier during war somehow falls just shy of the luminous power of the stories he tells of others.

Sarna is a searcher, a man who finds in empathy for others a kind of release. He writes searingly of the Jewish experience and of the legacy of the Holocaust but does so in miniature. He understands that horror often hides in the small details, the seemingly trivial
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kelley Hunt on December 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A collection of poignant tales about people bent and broken by war, abuse, abandonment, alienation, and separation both voluntary and involuntary from loved ones and familiar places. The language is simple yet dramatic and beautiful. Mr. Sarna has a good knack for showing rather than telling. I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Zopfi Emil on November 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This collection of non-fiction stories is an important contribution to understand the complex history of Israel and Palestine. It shows the conflict on the level of individuals and individual suffering. Igal Sarna has a genuine sense do discover, to investigate and to narrate the drama of individual life determined by the building process of two nations. Despite the hard and hopeless reality he finds words of a poetic quality. The book of one of the leading Israeli journalists, former tank commander and founder of the peace movement, is a "must" for everybody who wants to understand the dilemma of Middle East.
Emil Zopfi, writer, Switzerland
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Faiman on November 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Igal Sarna's new book of 'Israeli Lives,' recently published in a superb English translation by Haim Watzman, who also translated Tom Segev's 'One Palestine, Complete,' is a collection of fourteen heart-stopping stories of seemingly very ordinary people who, for different reasons and in different circumstances, found themselves in very extraordinary situations. Sarna is one of a small number of journalists - he writes for the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Achronot - whose stories grab the reader like mystery page-turners. Some of the people he writes about, as in 'Ze'ev' or 'The Sin of the Bedouin Boy,' arrive at tragic endings, while others, as in 'The Palestinian Officer's Palestinian Mom' or 'Heller's Late Doctorate,' bring tears of joy to the reader. But, whatever the outcome, all are about real people - names have not been changed - described with great sympathy and understanding and with a flair for good storytelling. I look forward to reading more from the pen of this engaging author.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Zopfi Emil on November 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This collection of non-fiction stories is an important contribution to understand the complex history of Israel and Palestine. It shows the conflict on the level of individuals and individual suffering. Igal Sarna has a genuine sense do discover, to investigate and to narrate the drama of individual life determined by the building process of two nations. Despite the hard and hopeless reality he finds words of a poetic quality. The book of one of the leading Israeli journalists, former tank commander and founder of the peace movement, is a "must" for everybody who wants to understand the dilemma of Middle East.
Emil Zopfi, writer, Switzerland
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