Yoram Kaniuk Lionel Abel - Essay

Lionel Abel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["The Acrophile" is] a personal fantasy that is touching, diverting, comical, even wise, and, to this reader at least, irresistible.

The hero of "The Acrophile" tells his story in snatches of memory; in monologues that are interrupted by other characters (who often borrow his rhetoric and continue his fantasy); in absurd and sometimes unbelievable encounters with strangers; in dreams, proverbs, meditations, jests. There is a total disregard for normal narrative order in this book and the beginning of the story is much closer to the end than is the middle. Kaniuk has made a game of what is silly in serious novels and thus found a form for his own troubled probing into the larger question: how can what was once the seriousness of life seem to be so silly? And what are you to do when you have found out that it is? How do you get married, go to your mother-in-law's funeral, fight properly with your wife, pursue a scholarly project, rise to a high academic post, or even eat a meal in a Lebanese restaurant? How are any of these far from abnormal activities possible to a person who has not unlearned to recognize nonsense when he comes across it? Kaniuk's hero has not unlearned, and never will unlearn, that nonsense is nonsense no matter how useful it may be not to regard it so. Now I believe there are a great many young people all over the world who are in this very difficulty, and I think that Kaniuk's hero speaks for them….

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(The entire section is 506 words.)