(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Elsewhere, Perhaps is set in the Israeli kibbutz of Metsudat Ram, which is located within sight—and gunshot—of the disputed Israeli-Jordanian border. Through the course of the seasons the members of the kibbutz go about their affairs, traveling through passages of life and death, change and continuity that are particularly Israeli yet universally human. The unnamed narrator of the novel is obviously one of the settlers at Metsudat Ram, and the reader also comes to enjoy at least honorary membership in the commune.

The action in Elsewhere, Perhaps is deceptively slow-paced, with a rhythm that echoes natural cycles. As befits a novel about Jewish characters, many of whom are survivors of the Holocaust or who are descended from the original generation of Israelis, memory and past events play a large part in the book. Persons and their actions are scrutinized, puzzled over, teased into meaning. As a character remarks, “I’m not a wise man, but I do know how to think. If you think the same thought a hundred times, it ends up by being very refined.”

Reuven Harish, the book’s central character, has much about which to think. Years earlier his wife, Eva, ran away with a cousin who was visiting the kibbutz. Ironically, and symbolically, Reuven has now assumed the position of tour guide as well as teacher for the commune. When not teaching he writes poetry, for which he is well-known, and he struggles with rearing his children, Noga and Gai.

After his wife’s departure, Reuven’s friendship with Bronka Berger gradually ripened into a love affair. At the same time,...

(The entire section is 664 words.)