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Authors: A. B. Yehoshua

Mr. Mani

BOOK: Mr. Mani
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents

Copyright

Dedication

The Conversation Partners

FIRST CONVERSATION

The Conversation Partners

Biographical

SECOND CONVERSATION

The Conversation Partners

Biographical

THIRD CONVERSATION

The Conversation Partners

Biographical

FOURTH CONVERSATION

The Conversation Partners

Biographical

FIFTH CONVERSATION

The Conversation Partners

Biographical

The Manis

Read More from A. B. Yehoshua

About the Author

Translation copyright © 1992 by Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Used by permission of Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
Copyright © 1989 by A. B. Yehoshua

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

 

www.hmhbooks.com

 

A segment of this book, in slightly different form, originally appeared in the
New Yorker
magazine.

 

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:
Yehoshua, Abraham B
[Mar Mani. English]
Mr Mani/by A. B. Yehoshua, translated from
the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin—1st ed
p. cm
Translation of Mar Mani.
I. Title. II. Title. Mister Mani.
PJ
5054.
Y
42
M
3413 1992
892 4'36—dc20 91-24908
ISBN
978-0-15-662769-6

 

e
ISBN
978-0-547-54245-4
v3.0514

To my father,
a man of Jerusalem and a
lover of its past

The
Conversation
Partners

HAGAR SHILOH, Student (1962–)

YA'EL SHILOH, (NÉE KRAMER), Agricultural Worker (1936–)

EGON BRUNER, Feldwebel (1922–)

ANDREA SAUCHON, (NÉE KURTMAIER), Former Nurse (1870–1944)

IVOR STEPHEN HOROWITZ, Lieutenant (1897–1973)

MICHAEL WOODHOUSE, Colonel (1877–1941)

EFRAYIM SHAPIRO, Physician (1870–1944)

SHOLOM SHAPIRO, Estate Owner (1848–1918)

AVRAHAM MANI, Merchant (1799–1861)

FLORA HADDAYA, (NÉE MOLKHO), Housewife (1800–1863)

SHABBETAI HANANIAH HADDAYA, Rabbi (1766?–1848)

FIRST CONVERSATION

Mash'abei Sadeh
7
P.M
Friday, December 31, 1982

The
Conversation
Partners

HAGAR SHILOH
Born in 1962 in Mash'abei Sadeh, a kibbutz thirty kilometers south of Beersheba that was founded in 1949. Her parents, Roni and Ya'el Shiloh, first arrived there in 1956 in the course of their army service. Hagar's father Roni was killed on the last day of the Six Day War as a reservist on the Golan Heights. As Hagar was five at the time, her claim to have clear memories of her father may well have been correct.

Hagar attended a regional high school in the nearby kibbutz of Revivim and finished her last year there without taking two of her matriculation exams, English and history. She began her army service in August 1980 and served as a noncommissioned counseling officer with a paratroop unit stationed in central Israel. Because her base was far from her kibbutz, she spent many of her short leaves in Tel Aviv, where she stayed with her paternal grandmother Naomi. She was very attached to this grandmother, from whom she liked to coax stories of her father's childhood. The old woman, who enjoyed her granddaughter's lively presence, sought repeatedly to persuade her to register at the University of Tel Aviv after the army. And indeed, upon finishing her military service, the last months of which were highly eventful because of the outbreak of the war in Lebanon in 1982, Hagar flouted the wishes of her mother, who wanted her to return home for at least a year before beginning her higher education, and persuaded a general meeting of the kibbutz to allow her to continue her studies. This decision was facilitated by the fact that, as the daughter of a fallen soldier, Hagar stood to have her tuition fully paid for by the ministry of defense.

Hagar hoped to study film at Tel Aviv University. However, lacking a high school diploma, she was not accepted as a fully matriculated student and was first required to register for a year-long course to prepare her for the exams she had missed. She was also asked to take courses in Hebrew and mathematics to upgrade her academic record.

In early December of that year, at the urging of her son Ben-Zion Shiloh, Hagar's uncle and the Israeli consul in Marseilles, Naomi decided to take a trip to France. In effect this was in place of her son's intended visit to Israel the previous summer, which was canceled when the consulate was forced to work overtime to present Israel's case in the Lebanese war. Although loathe to leave her beloved granddaughter for so long, she could not refuse her only son, a forty-year-old bachelor whose single state worried her greatly. Indeed, she was so determined to help find him a suitable match that she stayed longer than she had planned in order to attend the various New Year's receptions given by the consulate.

Hagar, a short, graceful young woman with the dark red hair of her late father, looked forward greatly to having her grandmother's large, attractive apartment to herself. At first she thought of asking her friend Irees, whom she had met at the university, to stay with her. Irees's father had also been killed in battle, in the Yom Kippur War, and she had an amazing knowledge of the various benefits and special offers that the Ministry of Defense made available to young people like themselves. In the end, though, she was unable to accept the invitation, which was just as well for Hagar, since at the beginning of that month she had struck up a relationship with an M.A. student named Efrayim Mani that could now be pursued in her grandmother's apartment. Her new boyfriend taught Hebrew in the preparatory course, and their romance got off to an intense start before he was called up on December 9 for reserve duty in the western zone of Israeli-occupied Lebanon, a far from tranquil area despite the newly signed “peace treaty” between Jerusalem and the government in Beirut.

 

YA'EL SHILOH, NÉE KRAMER
Born in a suburb of Haifa in 1936, Ya'el was highly active in a socialist youth movement and left high school in 1952 for a year of training in a kibbutz as a youth counselor, as a result of which she never graduated. In 1954 she began her army duty, serving with a group from her movement in the kibbutz of Rosh-Hanikrah near the Lebanese border. It was there that she met her future husband Roni Shiloh, a movement member from Tel Aviv. Trained as a paratrooper like the other boys in the group, he saw action in a number of border raids and in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. In their final months in the army Ya'el and Roni were stationed in Mash'abei Sadeh, a young kibbutz in the Negev desert. They liked it well enough to stay on and become members after their discharge, and in 1958 they were married. Both of them were employed in farm work, Roni in the grain fields and Ya'el in the fruit orchards. In 1962, after returning from a tour of Greece sponsored by the Israel Geographical Society, they had their first child, a daughter to whom they gave the biblical name of Hagar, as seemed fitting for a girl born in the desert. Four years later, in 1966, they had a second baby, a boy, who died several weeks later from acute hepatitis caused by his parents' incompatible blood types, which the hospital in Beersheba had neglected to test them for. With proper precautions, the doctors assured them, all would go well the next time. However, there was to be no next time, because Roni was killed in the Six Day War along the Kuneitra-Damascus road.

Despite the pleas of her own, and especially, of Roni's parents that she leave the kibbutz for Tel Aviv, Ya'el remained with her five-year-old daughter in the desert, which she more and more felt was her home. She knew of course that in a place so small and remote her chances of remarrying grew poorer from year to year, but she liked her work and was eventually put in charge of a special project to develop new methods of avocado growing. During the Yom Kippur War, when the general secretary of the kibbutz was mobilized for a long period, Ya'el was chosen to fill in for him. Although some of the members found her overly rigid ideologically, she stayed in the position for several years to the satisfaction of nearly everyone. Her relations with her daughter Hagar were intense but far from easy. Now and then, encouraged to get away by her friends, she attended kibbutz-movement workshops in education and psychology. Sometimes she even traveled to Beersheba for special guest lectures in the psychology and education departments of the university. In 1980, although by now a woman of forty-four, she let herself be persuaded to sign up for a singles encounter group, at the end of which she swore never again to do such a thing.

Ya'el feared that the close ties developed by her daughter with her grandmother, a widow since the mid-1970s, would entice her to leave the kibbutz, which was why she opposed Hagar's studying at the university immediately after finishing the army. Indeed, when Hagar applied to the kibbutz for a leave of absence, Ya'el secretly lobbied against her. In the end, however, Hagar was granted her wish in accordance with the liberal policy then prevalent in most kibbutzim of giving young members just out of the army ample time to “find themselves” before pressuring them to return. The stipend offered her by the defense ministry was also a factor in mustering a majority in her favor. After settling in Tel Aviv, she kept in close touch with her mother via her grandmother's telephone. The two made a point of talking twice a week even though the members of Kibbutz Mash'abei Sadeh did not yet have private phones in their rooms in 1982.

Ya'el's half of the conversation is missing.

***

—But even if I disappeared, Mother, I didn't disappear for very long. You needn't have worried...

—But I did phone you, Mother. I most certainly did, on Wednesday evening from Jerusalem.

—Of course. I was still in Jerusalem Wednesday evening. Yesterday too.

—Yesterday too, Mother. And this morning too. But I left you a message.

—How could you not have gotten it?

—Oh, God, Mother, don't tell me that another message of mine got lost!

—How should I know ... whoever picked up the phone...

—Some volunteer from Germany.

—But what could I have done, Mother? It's not my fault that no one in his right mind on the whole kibbutz will pick up the télé- phoné in the dining hall after supper, because no one wants to have to go out in the cold and run around looking for whoever it's for. Why don't
you
try getting the kibbutz some winter night, to say nothing of talking in English to a foreign volunteer who's too spaced out to hold a pencil. If you did, you'd understand what a mistake you made when you led a crusade against private telephones as if the future of socialism depended on it. Lots of other kibbutzim have had private phones for years. They take them for granted as a necessity of life...

—I've yet to see the kibbutz that went bankrupt from its phone bills, Mother. That's just your fantasy.

—But I didn't disappear, Mother. I simply left Tel Aviv for three days.

—With him? Fat chance of that! He's still with the army in Lebanon. But it was because of him that I went to Jerusalem to see his father, and I was stranded there until this morning.

—I stranded myself.

—But that's the whole point, Mother. That's the whole point of the story...

—No. It started snowing there Wednesday afternoon, but by yesterday it had all melted.

—No. That old coat was given me by his father. Mr. Mani.

—That's how I think of him.
Mr Mani.
Don't ask me why.

—But that's the whole point of my story. That's the only reason I came home today, because it's crazy to be sitting here with you when I should be in Tel Aviv studying for an exam...

—I told you. I have an English exam on Monday, and the last thing I want is to flunk again.

—No. I left all my books and notebooks in Grandmother's apartment in Tel Aviv. I didn't take a thing with me to Jerusalem on Tuesday, certainly not any books. I thought I was only going for a few hours, to do Efi this favor. But once I was there I felt I couldn't leave, and so I stayed for three whole days...

BOOK: Mr. Mani
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