The Liberated Bride

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In The Liberated Bride, A. B. Yehoshua limits his third-person narrative, for the most part, to Yochanon Rivlin, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Haifa University. Beset by a sense of failure and missed opportunities, Rivlin seeks in vain for two answers: on the personal level, the cause of his son Ofer’s divorce from Galya; on the professional level, the causes of the Algerian civil war of the 1990’s. His unsuccessful quest is paralleled by Rashid. Rashid is in love with Samaher, Rivlin’s student, whose marriage begins the novel. At the end of the novel Rashid, responsible for the maiming of the young Rasheed, shares Rivlin’s sense of failure.

Rivlin not only fails to discover the answers he seeks, but he is also blind to some of his baser motives and actions. Upset by his colleague Miller’s response to his Algerian book, he gets Miller transferred to the Political Science Department, thereby postponing Miller’s chances at tenure. He is also jealous of Ephraim Akri, his successor as department chair, who, unlike Rivlin, is practically a native speaker of Arabic. Hagit, Rivlin’s Ruth-like wife and a successful jurist, even suggests that his meddling may have caused Ofer’s problems.

Both Galya and Samaher, “liberated wives,” stay with unimaginative, dull men, even though they love other men who resemble Rivlin. And both women, especially Samaher, resist definition. Samaher is a political activist, malingering student, fraudulent expectant mother, sensitive translator of Arabic short stories (some of them relevant to the plot and to Rivlin’s research), and actress. Rivlin never discovers the reason for Ofer’s divorce (revealed to the reader through Ofer and Galya’a correspondence), but he does not understand that some things cannot or should not be resolved. In fact, Yehoshua seems to suggest that Arab-Israeli problems cannot be comprehended, especially by those caught up in them.