A Late Divorce

By A. B. Yehoshua


A. B. Yehoshua is considered by many to be one of the top three Israeli novelists. His books are not easy to read. They require the reader to think during the reading, to consider the character’s motivation, his and her psychology, and the effect of the happening upon others.

Every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way, as Tolstoy observed. In this novel, every individual in the dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in his and her own way and, in the hands of the master writer Yehoshua, in an interesting way. While the primary focus of the novel is the arrival of the father of the family from America to Israel to obtain a divorce from his institutionalized wife who had tried to kill him by stabbing him, each of his children, his two sons and one daughter, are in bad relationships needing a divorce, including one son who is in a homosexual relationship and mistreats his paramour badly.

Similarly, while the wife is hospitalized for attempted murder of her spouse, each of the children is, in effect, murdering their spouse, and while the institutionalized wife is clearly at least partially insane, so is everyone else in the tale, each in their own way.

We all know that severing a marriage with a divorce is a difficult endeavor, but there are unexpected difficulties when the father/husband in this novel attempts to persuade his wife the sign the divorce decree.

Yehoshua tells his tale from the perspective of each of the characters, usually it takes a page or two before we realize who is talking. This prompts us to wonder who the speaker is and gives a deeper dimension to the novel when we realize that the speaker could be someone we are surprised to hear from and is saying what is being said.

Seeing events from the perspective of different persons is not unique. We know, of course, of the four different takes of the life of Jesus in the New Testament. In that case, each is in many ways not the same as the others. There is also Faulkner’s famous “The Sound and the Fury,” where each of four persons sees the same event from their own perspective. “A Late Divorce” is unlike both of these. Like “The Sound and the Fury,” each narrator sees the same event, but Yehoshua’s presentation is deeper than Faulkner’s: we learn more about the psychology and humanity of each narrator.