(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FIMA follows fifty-four-year-old Ephraim “Fima” Nisan, whose dreams exceed his accomplishments, through five days in February, 1989. A receptionist at a gynecology clinic in Jerusalem, Fima is forever taking stock of failed promise. He awakens from uneasy dreams, reads newspapers, and goes to work, but what he does primarily, incessantly is think: about personal relationships, politics, international tensions, and an absent God.

He is forever convening and presiding over imaginary Cabinet meetings and composing unsent letters on the sorry state of the world. Acutely mindful of the sufferings of Palestinians and stray pets, Fima is so absent-minded he forgets to pay his phone bill. FIMA makes us care about a “unique combination of wit and absent-mindedness, of melancholy and enthusiasm, of sensitivity and helplessness, of profundity and buffoonery.”

Though obsessive calls and visits exasperate his friends, Fima inspires fierce devotion, particularly among women, even his former wife Yael, an aeronautical engineer who, after aborting their baby, left him almost twenty-five years ago. Though critical of his son’s sloth and sentimental leftism, Baruch, an eighty-two-year-old cosmetics magnate, loves Fima, too. Fima cherishes Dimi, the vulnerable ten-year-old albino son of Yael and her American husband Ted.

Published in Hebrew as HA-MATSAV HA-SHELISHI (THE THIRD STATE), FIMA contemplates a luminous reality beyond immediate confusion and pain. Though a militant atheist, Fima longs for the “supernal radiance” that he imagines is the Third State: “that vague nagging feeling that reminds us from time to time that there is, outside and inside, almost within reach, something fundamental that you always seem on the way to yet you always lose your way to.” A report card on the state of Fima and the Jewish state, FIMA offers radiant intimations of a third, transcendent state, while it confirms the wizardry of Oz.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XC, October 15, 1993, p.418.

Boston Globe. October 31, 1993, p.105.

Chicago Tribune. November 14, 1993, XIV, p.3.

The Christian Science Monitor. October 28, 1993, p.13.

Library Journal. CXVIII, October 15, 1993, p.90.

New Statesman and Society. VI, September 17, 1993, p.38.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, October 24, 1993, p.12.

San Francisco Chronicle. November 28, 1993, p. REV6.

The Times Educational Supplement. October 1, 1993, p. AlO.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 8, 1993, p.28.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, November 28, 1993, p.6.