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Mourning a Father Lost: A Kibbutz Childhood Remembered

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742529229
ISBN-10: 0742529223
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The death of his father led Balaban to return home to Israel to mourn-but when he arrived home to the kibbutz where he'd been raised, he realized that he was mourning more than the loss of his parent. As he recounts in this deeply felt, sometimes painful memoir, he was also mourning the lack of emotion his father displayed and the communal child-rearing system he believes creates adults who "evince the selfishness of people who never got enough protection and security." For most of the 20th century, kibbutz kids lived in children's houses and only saw their parents for a few hours at a time. Balaban, a poet and literary critic who has long taught in the United States, effortlessly weaves past and present, allowing the reader to travel with him as he recounts his childhood while mourning a father who embodied the words "emotionally absent." His loving mother, on the other hand, was the author's saving grace. The book is heavy, as Balaban finds little happiness in either past or present. He's shocked, for example, to find old love letters written by his parents. But his lyrical voice ("The prolonged stay in my childhood kibbutz is turning me into a flute in which all the songs of my childhood keep resounding") and his honest criticism of the kibbutz's social experiment will pull readers in to this elegy not only for a father but for the slow death of the socialist kibbutz dream. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

[Avraham Balaban's] lyrical voice and his honest criticism of the kibbutz's social experiment will pull readers in to this elegy not only for a father but for the slow death of the socialist kibbutz dream. (Publishers Weekly)

A top-notch work of literature. . . . Avraham Balaban seeks to express the sorrow of parents who missed parenthood and of children who missed childhood, and does this with talent and an exacting, complex, and most sensitive vision. (Eleonora Lev, Ha'aretz)

Breathtaking. . . . This marvelous literary text weaves together present and past, and original metaphors accompany authentic memories and literary inventiveness. (Karni A'm-A'd, Iton kibbutz)

The child examines with an adult eye all the participants in the drama of his childhood, looking backward, at times with anger and at times with pity, pain, irony, and love. This child is a universal hero. . . . Avraham Balaban's memoir is literature at its best. (Tamar Rodner Ha'aretz)

An important and sensitive literary work, written with restraint, wisdom, piercing insight, and impressive narrative and descriptive skill. (Dan Miron, Columbia University)

Many stories were written about childhood, motherhood, and parenthood in the early days of the kibbutz movement, but Balaban conveys the collective voice with great talent and new force. (Amia Lieblich, Hado'ar)

An English translation of a book which has appeared in Hebrew to great critical acclaim and wide appeal. A fascinating work. (David Patterson, emeritus president of the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies)

An extremely impressive book. (Elie Wiesel)

Each section is as sharp as a poem. . . . This is an unforgettable book for anyone whose life is, or has been, bound up with the state of Israel. (The Jewish Chronicle, USA)

After his father's death, Avraham Balaban, author and Professor of modern Hebrew literature at the University of Florida, journeyed back to the kibbutz in Israel where he was raised. Intending to mourn the death of his father, Balaban is confronted with the ghost of his own life as he swirls into his past and sifts through his memories of being raised on a kibbutz. Upon examination, Balaban laments over what he know sees as a childhood lost, and parents who were restricted in parenting style by the limitations and structure of communal living. Balaban's prose is lyrical, and the book is a well-written and honest account of his own childhood that is sure to hit a nerve in all who venture to read it. (A. F. Roberts, University of California Jewish World Book)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742529223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742529229
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,209,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Mr.Balaban's honest look at his own experience as a product of the kibbutz, allows the non kibbutznik reader to confirm what was intuitive; that the utopian experiment of the kibbutz has gone awry, much in the way other utopian experiments of a more grandiose scale based on the premise of a "new man" have gone. Mr.Balaban also enables us to use this book as a prism with which to look at Israeli society, heavily influenced by the kibbutz movement in the 50's and 60's. Although the writting is sometimes inconsistent, its candor more than makes up for it. For anyone interested in Israel in general, and in the Kibbutz movement in particular, this is a serious piece of work. To the reader's gain, the author chose to risk the spurn of his fellow gordonians and for that he needs to be commended.
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This book is a moving portrait of a childhood. Though I'm not from a kibbutz, was raised in a far distant land, the loneliness inherent in all childhoods, the fears, the abandonments, the limited capacities of parents--Mr. Balaban brings all these out of the shadows and gives the reader much to identify with and reflect upon.
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