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"The Netanyahu": What Succeeds in "A Wonderful Land" does not work in Joshua Cohen's Pulitzer Prize-winning book - Walla! culture


Joshua Cohen's book mockingly describes a visit by Benzion Netanyahu and his family, including the boy Benjamin, to a Jewish professor in the United States - a meeting between the Jew in exile and the Israeli

"The Netanyahu": What Succeeds in "A Wonderful Land" does not work in Joshua Cohen's Pulitzer Prize winner

Joshua Cohen's book mockingly describes a visit by Benzion Netanyahu and his family, including the boy Benjamin, to a Jewish professor in the United States - a meeting between the Jew in exile and the Israeli in God.

Although the book does not enrich our view of the family, it manages to say something fascinating about Jewish relations




Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 12:00 p.m.

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A fictional story based on a real case.

Benzion Netanyahu (Photo: Educational 23)

A few years ago, American journalist and author Joshua Cohen came to a series of meetings with renowned literary critic Harold Bloom at his home in New Haven, Connecticut.

In one of them, while talking about great Jewish writers such as Sol Blue, Bernard Malmud and Philip Roth, the figure of Benjamin Netanyahu, then the prime minister who has served for about 12 years in a row, appeared on the muted television screen.

Harold Bloom glanced at the screen and said, "I once met this guy."

Joshua Cohen was convinced that Harold Bloom had met Netanyahu when the latter was ambassador to the UN, or at some stormy party on the Upper East Side, but Bloom surprised him and said, "No, I met him when he was 10."

He told Joshua Cohen that when he worked as a lecturer at Cornell University he was asked to host Dr. Benzion Netanyahu, the father of, who was at the time a candidate for a position in the history department. Bloom belonged to the English department but was the only Jew at the university, If you think he will fit in here. Then, according to him, Dr. Benzion Netanyahu appeared one weekend with his wife Tzila and the children Yoni, Bibi and Ido, and "they made a lot of mess."

This story was actually the anchor for the book "The Netanyahuz - a Secondary and Eventually Neglected Episode in a Very Famous Family History" published by New York Review Books Composed.

The short novel written by Joshua Cohen thus takes place in a fictional college called Corbyn in Corbindale, a fictional town in New York State.

The narrator is Professor Ruben Blum, a Jew born in the Bronx, 1922, the son of Jewish immigrants from Kiev, a historian of the history of taxation, who was the first Jew ever to be employed in an entire institution.

The same semi-imaginary professor is asked by Dr. Morse, director of the Department of History, to host Dr. Ben Zion Netanyahu, a completely uninvented figure, on the same weekend he is scheduled to interview the faculty and give a lecture to students, as part of his admission process.

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Another fascinating stop.

Cover of the book "The Netanyahuz" by Joshua Cohen (Photo: Haba Laor)

The first part of the book is basically about the mask of Prof. Bloom's life within the fictional college.

In this part, Joshua Cohen walks a plowed field that has been written about long before - the same unresolved identity problem of the Jewish intellectual and his attempt - which usually characterizes quite a few minorities - to prove that he is no different from the average American citizen.

But the same attempt takes a grotesque form here precisely because so much effort is put into it - Professor Bloom disguises himself as Santa Claus at Christmas, and his daughter Judy (Jewish) carries a not-so-simple complex about her "Jew" nose, which she tries to get rid of in every way possible - A road that has a violent and wild element but also very comical.

So far we are at the heart of a fairly well-known territory - a territory that quite a few artists like Philip Roth ("What is oppressing Portnoy") have been doing in the field of literature, the Cohen brothers in cinema (the 2009 film "Good Jew", which has prominent autobiographical elements To the childhood of the sibling duo in a suburb of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota), and of course brilliant TV creators like Larry David ("Calm Down") and Jerry Seinfeld.

All of these creators deal to one degree or another with the complexity of Jewish existence in the American public, and touch, among other things, in a covert or overt way on the question of loyalty, a question that is expressed in the sharpest and most poignant way in the case of Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard.

But the difference in this case is that Joshua Cohen takes another step forward and brings his Jewish hero, Prof. Blum, together with the character of the Israeli, and not just an Israeli, but almost with the Israeli in God, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man with The polished English who dared to stand up and in the U.S. House of Representatives and preach morality to an incumbent American president.

Although in this book Benjamin Netanyahu is only a 10-year-old boy - the book's plot takes place in 1960 - but it seems to me that it is difficult to miss the unflattering portrait (to say the least) that Joshua Cohen is trying to paint here.

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A grotesque and satirical description but not in-depth.

The Netanyahu family today (Photo: Reuters)

To a man like me, who has been following the complex relationship between the Israeli and Jewish communities in America for quite a few years now, I admit that this is a pretty amazing thing.

I remember, for example, a lecture I gave at one of the oldest synagogues in Philadelphia (the Netanyahu family spent quite a few years in the city) about twenty years ago.

As part of the lecture, I showed them an excerpt from the film "Operation Jonathan" (Yehoram Gaon plays the character of Yoni Netanyahu, the commander of the operation), and the tone I took was quite ridiculous.

For example, about the pathos that Yoni Netanyahu speaks when he stands in the doorway of the plane in Menachem Golan's film and says, among other things: I know you do not like to hear Zionism ... We are going on an operation thousands of kilometers from the country to save Israelis,

I was sure that the liberal Jewish audience would immediately adopt my mocking tone, but to my great surprise, their reaction was quite the opposite: they actually had a lot of sentiment for June and his Zionist speech.

He embodied in their eyes the sabra that had finally been extracted in the skin of his teeth from the immanent weakness of the exiled Jew.

Whereas here, in this book, a pendulum motion occurs.

Everything that was considered only twenty years ago as a valued and revered trait - almost reverses.

The Netanyahu (and with them to a large extent also the figure of the Israeli sabra) are presented most of the time as rude and predatory figures, who invade the home of the Jewish intellectual and make names for him.

In this respect it is of course worth asking whether a book, or literature in general, should offer a more complex and complete portrait of characters, not just in the grotesque and satirical way in which they appear here.

Not everything that is good and worthy of a successful show like "Great Country" is equally successful when it appears in a book.

In this sense, that is, in enriching our view of the almost most famous Israeli family, the book unfortunately has a disappointing and frustrating dimension.

At the same time, it is another fascinating stop in representing the tension and uneasy relations between the two largest Jewish communities in the world.

"The Netanyahu" / Joshua Cohen.

From English: Erez Volk.

Publishing Let's.

229 pages.

  • culture

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Source: walla

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