The Latest Work of Israel’s Leading Science-Fiction Writer Doesn’t Live Up to Its Promise

Nov. 23 2022

Published last year, ha-Lashon Noshlah (“Tongue Untangled”), is the latest work of Shimon Adaf, probably the Jewish state’s best-known author of science fiction and fantasy. While written for adults, its elaborate plot has at its center one of Adaf’s previous works of children’s fantasy, which in turn plays with the biblical story of Abraham and the realities of modern Israel. Michael Weingrad revisits the earlier book and reviews the new one, while taking stock of Adaf’s career:

For two decades, Adaf has seemed on the verge of producing a great work of Hebrew fantastica. He is a particularly fine poet, with tremendous lyrical gifts. Yet his fantasy and science fiction novels (I have not read his detective trilogy, now translated into English) all tend to recede into self-referentiality and cryptic language games, gesturing towards accomplishment unfulfilled; . . . while occasionally studded with passages of beautiful and atmospheric lyricism, and kernels of clever references and self-referentiality, [these works] are ultimately literature-department conceits, clothed in genre tropes and not particularly well worked out in either philosophical or novelistic terms.

The narrative flaws seen in [the earlier book] are also here: belated expositions and backstory infodumps in place of narrative suspense and resolution, sudden and arbitrary realizations on the part of the characters, narrative logic filled in with talkiness rather than action. Adaf’s career-long obsession with the nature of language ironically fails to appreciate the literary effectiveness of silence.

And then there is Adaf’s problematic theology:

This typology of normative religious tradition as oppressive and narrow-minded, while outsiders are benevolent and independent-minded runs through the book. Rabbis and Orthodox Jews in Adaf’s fiction often tend to be racists and bigots. The main agent of the sadistic angels in the book is an underground organization of fanatical monotheists—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—who want to uproot all idolatry from the world. The organization is run by a far-right Israeli Jew. It takes a certain ideological perspective to make an Israeli organization that unites Muslims, Christians, and Jews the bad guys. Yet, as Lucinda tells one rabbi, idolatry is not bad. It is a form of magic that can be used for good purposes.

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Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: Fantasy, Israeli literature, Science fiction

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship