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A Woman in Jerusalem Paperback – August 6, 2007

4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Israel's master novelist (Mr. Mani) tells a spellbinding tale about a spellbinding woman whose luminous smile, swan's neck and Tatar eyes are so beguiling that even in death she can lead a man to fall in love with her. The woman is Yulia Ragayev, a Slavic immigrant to Israel who has been killed in a terrorist bombing and whose corpse lies unidentified in a morgue for a week. The man (who, like everyone in the novel except Yulia, remains nameless) is the human resources manager at the commercial bakery where Yulia worked as a cleaning woman. A muckraking article forces the bakery's owner to discover her identity and take action to restore her dignity. The owner orders the HR director to return Yulia's body to her son and mother in her native land for burial—a journey that turns into an opportunity for moral redemption for him after a series of stunning reversals. Throughout, Yulia remains a mystery: why did she come to, and cling to, Jerusalem when she wasn't Jewish? Questions of morality, dignity, identity, nationality and belonging are subtly explored in sometimes hallucinatory prose, fluently translated by Halkin. This short novel's layers reveal themselves only gradually and, once revealed, continue to compel and provoke. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Renowned Israeli writer Yehoshua performs a bold improvisation on the basic plotline of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and casts light on Israel's bloody history and cultural conflicts. The hero of this smart, suspenseful seriocomic tale of guilt, penance, and public relations is the human resources manager of a major Jerusalem company. When the 87-year-old owner learns that a local newspaper is about to run a scathing article about a company employee, a beautiful Russian who was killed by a suicide bomber and whose body remains unclaimed, he directs the human resources manager to find out what happened and make amends, no expenses spared. And so begins a sequence of ludicrous if well-meant mishaps as the manager mounts an improbable and risky expedition to return Yulia Ragayev's body to her isolated Soviet village, a journey that includes a surreal stopover at an obsolete Russian atomic-bomb shelter. Tautly composed in a manner akin to Kafka and Babel, Yehoshua's brilliant under-your-skin satire subtly evokes thoughts of war and terrorism, vulnerability and fate, the sacred and the profane. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (August 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156031949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156031943
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,076,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In A. B. Yehoshua's "A Woman in Jerusalem," a local newspaper publishes a scathing article in which a reporter denounces the owner of a commercial bakery for not missing one of his employees when she no longer shows up for work. It turns out that this individual was a cleaning lady who was killed in a terrorist bombing. The eighty-seven year old owner is mortified and conscience stricken by what he considers his company's dereliction of duty. He calls in his human resources manager and tells him to do whatever he can to set things right.

Thus begins this whimsical and touching tale that launches the unnamed human resources manager on a strange odyssey. The fact that no one in the novel except the bombing victim is given a name lends the novel an allegorical feel. The dead woman is Yulia Ragayev, a mechanical engineer who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, and was subsequently granted temporary residence status in Israel. She lived in a run down shack in Jerusalem, and cleaned the bakery at night. Yulia was resigned to being separated from her thirteen-year old son, who had gone back to his mother's native country.

The human resources manager looks into the entire matter, at his boss's behest. He visits the morgue where the body lay for days, unclaimed, and he confronts the reporter who broke the story. He seeks answers to these questions: Why was the victim found with a pay stub from the bakery when the night manager claims that he had fired her a month earlier? Why was an obviously intelligent person like Yulia living in Jerusalem while holding such a menial job? Who will take responsibility for arranging her burial and where should she be buried?
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Format: Hardcover
A. B. Yehoshua's novel, "A Woman in Jerusalem" raises a number of difficult themes -- the nature of love, the search for identity, the importance of place -- but explores them unconvincingly. I don't think the novel succeeds.

The story involves a dead non-Jewish woman, Yulia Ragayev,in her late 40s who had immigrated to Jersualem with her Jewish lover and her son from a former marriage. When her lover and son leave she opts to remain and is killed in an attack by suicide bombers. Although trained as an engineer, Yulia has taken a job as a cleaning woman with a large bakery company, whose parent company also makes newsprint. Upon her death, she is traced to the company, and an opportunistic news reporter, the "weasel" is going to publish an article faulting the company for not showing more compassion towards its employee.

Only Yulia is named in the novel with the other characters identified by their functions, such as the "weasel", the "office manager", and, the chief character "the human resources manager". A theme of the book thus seems to be the anonymity of modern life. The owner of the company, out of a mixture of genuine compassion and self-interest for his business, charges the human resources manager to learn Yulia's story and make appropriate amends on behalf of the company. The human resources manager ultimately travels with Yulia's coffin to an obscure village in Russia in the depth of winter, where he encounters the Israeli counsul, Yulia's ex-husband, her son, and her mother.

The book tells of the outward journey of the human resources manager to secure a proper burial for Yulia and his inward journey to find himself.
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Format: Paperback
A woman is murdered in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, her body long unclaimed, a journalist traces her to a bakery where she once worked and was not in death missed. The burial of this woman, Yulia Ragayev, the only person in this wonderful novel to have a name, launches the tale. The Bakery's Human Resource Director must find out who she was and what was her relationship to the bakery, in the process becoming emotionally attached to her. Indeed, it is a testament to Yehoshua's skills how well he brings this dead woman to life as a character in the story without using flashbacks or others recounting long memories of her.

To tell much more would give to much away about this engaging humorous story. A note should be said about those reviewers who complain that "A Woman in Jerusalem" lacked subtlety or depth. To say that this story is simple would be akin to saying that Carver's "What We Talk About when We Talk about Love" is about two couples having a drink or "Ulysses" is about a day in Dublin. The subtle layers of Yehoshua's novel contain much richness and thought, along with a great deal of pathos. Indeed, one must be impressed at the humanity and humor he brings to a subject as overwhelming as terrorism. Serious readers will not be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
Yehoshua's book is both amusing and deadly serious at the same time. His writing style is reminiscent of J. M. Coetzee and Saramago. He uses a straightforward, simple but poignant language that expresses so much through its brevity. The book truly paints a marvelous picture of a journey, one that represents the roots of many an Israeli resident.

Yehoshua accomplishes his tremendous illustration by painting a picture that is at once both Kafkaesque and surreal. He takes his protagonist, a human resource manager from a large Jerusalem bakery, through a journey all the way to the old Soviet Union. With him, he takes the body of a woman that died in Jerusalem in a terrorist bombing attack. The trip brings him in contact with the two living blood relatives of the dead woman and the ex-husband. Each meeting has a special character and each one drives the human resources manager to proceed in a specific direction.

In addition, Yehoshua makes certain commentary on the government and the Cold War. But the central theme of the book regards the attempt to give the body dignity under very difficult conditions, no matter what it takes. As there is "no choice" but to do what is necessary.

The book is recommended for all serious literature readers. It truly is one of the great works of the 21st Century to date. It is highly recommended.
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