A perfect peace

I continued my read of Amos Oz, with the novel A perfect peace.

This time, the author places us in the countryside Israel of the 60s, in a village, settlement type which they call kibbutz. In here, life is a bit different than urban areas, but the novelty of the twentieth century begins to show up.

The main theme of the novel is coping with life in a closed and small community where life is more or less dull or controlled, and the impact of new wave upon it, together with the need for emancipation.

One main character is Jonathan, a child with an uncertain father, from whom everyone has expectancies: to be a good kid, to be a good worker, to be a good husband and a good father. Jonathan has no desire for the life imposed upon him and starts dreaming of a different life, a mirage of a voyage and a free life. He feels imprisoned and unhappy in the kibbutz.

Rimona, Jonathan’s wife is a semi autistic young lady, with a huge pain of miscarriage. She doesn’t realize much what is happening around her, and still imagines that her child is still alive. She desires a child and to live a silent and happy life within herself.

Azaria Ghitlin is the model of the newcomer, the immigrant, for whom the life in the kibbutz is everything desired: a warm home, a lovely and beautiful wife, and the time to discover life’s joy: chess, gardening, a fruitful job as a mechanic, singing the guitar, studying philosophy. Azaria comes to the kibbutz as a total stranger, but his enthusiasm and ability to attract people eventually brings him in the center of the village.

Iolek, Jonathan’s father is the kibbutz’s secretary and incurably ill with a terminal disease he refuses to treat. He has great hopes upon his son, but his life itself has been without much happiness. He doesn’t have many feelings for his wife, whom he considers to be more his companion than his soul-mate. He forgives her adultery with a stranger that might be Jonathan’s father after all, and takes Jonathan as his son without being sure of it. He loves the image and the kibbutz more than his personal life. And expects that his image will stay after his disappearance.

Life in the kibbutz is dull, so Jonathan decides to leave his wife, which gets him exhausted with her care, her calm, her solitude and her distance from him, and his father, who only desires that he takes over the repairing garage, upon which he has no inclination. He leaves the kibbutz eventually to find new world, and the first thing he wants to reach is Petra, the city of stone, in Jordan. He doesn’t reach this point however, but the travel towards it is an initiation path into life. He meets sexual liberation , space, despair, and eventually figures out he has made many mistakes in his life and blames himself for not being up to the expectancy of his parents, his wife and his community. He returns to his home after a year with a baggage of guilt and experience, which makes him a more complete man.

Azaria comes to the kibbutz exactly from an opposite reason: he immigrated from Russia, where he had a very hard life, full of pain and suffering, and sees the kibbutz as the perfect life. He appreciates Jonathan more than anything, as he considers him his best and only friend, and takes Rimona as his own wife before and after Jonathan leaves the village. Even after his return, they live as a family of three, and after that four after Rimona’s and Azaria’s child is born.

As Jonathan is leaving without a trace, this opens up a full exposure of hidden and dark emotions, that make all the characters look very real and human. Iolek is frightened that his son left to his presumable real father that lives in the USA. His dark fears come again true, about this inability to make his wife happy and the reasons that led to her cheating. Hava, his wife, shows her true feelings and accuses Iolek of killing her and their son, that with his lifestyle and his acceptance of the situation he wasted all her life, and that imposing upon his son all the things that he did, he is killing him as well.

All the characters have a dark emotion that they keep it hidden : we can see Shrulik, the next secretary, a man who never married but was in love for 25 years with a woman he idolized, Jonathan about leaving, Hava about her death, Iolek about this image, Azaria about the respect he wanted.

A real good novel about growing up, about being in a place without belonging, about finding the place where you belong, about what you need, and when it’s worth to try to get it, and which sacrifice can be done in order to obtain it, A perfect peace is a wonderful book, more exactly a great character painting.

Amos Oz amazingly depicted his characters here, in which we can all find something in common, something to think and to introspect about ourselves.

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