A Wounded Loyalty

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, you shall surely reprove your fellow and not bear guilt because of him. Leviticus 19:17 “This last winter was another lost in fog. As usual he did nothing.” In this way A.B. Yehoshua introduces readers to the anonymous, plodding, intellectually undistinguished Israeli protagonist of his story “Facing the Forests,” which appeared in 1968. The character betrays clumsiness even with his own perceptions, which often strike him as blurry, out of focus. A haze encircles him. At first he seems merely lazy, but slowly, slowly, at the glacial pace of a narrative that unfolds in a universe staggering beneath its own drowsiness, the reader realizes that this man is bound by an incapacitating awareness that something terrible has gone wrong. He has been sewn into an inheritance, bequeathed to him at birth, which he is powerless to set right. This awareness thickens and befuddles him, affecting him more than it seems to affect anyone else in the story. The other characters are utterly immune to whatever dark reality shackles him in place.  Solitude, his friends decree, will cure him. They propose a plan: he must become a forest ranger — ads in the newspaper assure them that such a position exists. All alone for months on end surveilling the trees in case of fire, this isolation will invigorate him, they insist, and shake loose the clutches of inertia. They do not know what the reader freshly suspects: that inertia is the mechanism by which he ignores an unbearable truth. It is his cure, and there is no cure for it. Since protestation requires energy, which his crushing passivity saps, he finds himself some days later at the Forestry Service where “in a sort of dangerous drowsiness” he cannot stop himself from expressing

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