It was with eager anticipation that I awaited the latest work from Elisha Porat. From his work in poetry and short stories (i.e. The Messiah of LaGuardia and Payback) I know to expect something great. As usual Elisha did not disappoint as "Episode" is one of his best works to date.
It is a work of fiction based on the true story of Arieh Lahola who was a Central European intellecutal who dabbled in films and theatrical productions during a brief stay in Israel after WWII. The novel is a very interesting composition that sheds light on the world of the "vagabond artists" who roamed from kibbutz to kibbutz in the mid part of the 20th century creating theaterical shows, mixing with the locals and then moving on to the next adventure. A troupe of restless creative souls who spread not only their creative magic but oftentimes their amorous adventures as well amongst a population striving to build a society that would insure the continued existence of the state of Israel.
What makes the novel truly unique is not only the subject matter which is left largely untouched by most Israeli literature in recent years, it is also in its presentation. We learn about Elisha's father who translated plays for the kibbutz drama club from languages he knew only from dictionaries. This angle of the story gives the life of "Leopold Spitzer" (the central character based on Arieh Lahola) a truly personal dimension as you sense this characters connection to the author's own family history. In addition, throughout the book there are interspersed segments of old dramatic actors recalling their experiences with Spitzer as well as imaginery conversations that Spitzer may have very well had himself with other up and coming directors once he had fled Israel and gone back to Europe.
These unique angles in telling hte story bring fresh life to an old theme - resurrecting a real life character through a fictional backdrop. I think it works very well. You get to understand Spitzer's sense of being a "lost soul" if you will (having been the only survivor from his family who were murdered in the Holocaust) from more than just a third person account. This is particularly effective in the conversations Spitzer has about why he left Israel once he returns to Europe. A must read with a surprise ending that really brings the story together, I highly recommend "Episode" by Elisha Porat.