Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The highly autobiographical novel Not of This Time, Not of This Place recounts the struggles of its protagonist, Joel, over the question of whether to return to his native Germany or to remain in Jerusalem, where he has found himself after the end of World War II. Jerusalem appeals to Joel because of the stimulation he derives from its exotic locale. A young archaeologist at the city’s Hebrew University, Joel dreams of staying in Jerusalem because of the vague promise of discovering a new lover. Although he is married, he is only tentatively loyal to his wife and views the prospect of an illicit love affair as a chance to embark on a new life in a new country.
In contrast, the “old” aspects of Germany, with much of the nation reduced to ruin, offer Joel little incentive to return. However, there is one compelling reason to go back: Joel feels morally obligated to return to Germany and confront the former Nazis who murdered his close childhood friend. Another friend enigmatically suggests that Joel both remain in Israel and return to Germany. But how is he to live two lives at once, in two completely different countries?
At this point, the novel embarks on a brave stylistic experiment; it splits into two parallel but alternating narratives, one told in the third person and the other told in the first person. In the third-person narrative, Joel remains in Jerusalem and enters into an obsessive love affair with an American woman....
(The entire section is 475 words.)
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