[diary] 2 – israel

Shalom everyone !

It’s by wandering on the webpage of Editions Zulma’s catalog, particularly full of foreign literature, that I encountered what was about to become the second book of my challenge. So this time, we will travel to Israel with My First Sony, by Benny Barbash – the story of a young boy who record on tape the daily life of his relatives.


From the first pages of this book until the last, we are irresistibly carried away in the earthy story of this Israeli family. There is the father, Assi, an unhappy womanizer, the mother, Alma, an activist architect, and of course Yotam who records everything ; but also a big brother, a little sister, four grandparents, two uncles, two aunts, a flock of cousins, the mother’s friends, the father’s girlfriends… and in no time at all, it is a whole world that comes to life and reacts to the most various situations.

The big strength of this book is that it is not limited to a chronological version of events : here, it is Yotam, the insecure middle child, who tells his life with his own words, as they come. And we always go back in time, and then forward, because one word needs an explanation, or because a moment evokes a memory which reminds a story of the grandfather which…and so on and so forth. If that peculiar rhythm is sometimes hard to stick to (where are we and when, and what comes before what ?), it also allows to change theme at the speed of thought.

That is how we never stop alternating between political discussion and religious ceremony, love story and sex anecdote, daily scene and moment of History. And there definitely is some History. From the end of the 19th century to present days, from pogroms to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from Poland to Argentina to Israel, the stories of all these characters – especially the war veteran grandfather Zvi – outline multiple sides of modern culture. This book also gives an inside view of contemporary Jewish religion : its rites, its contradictions, its language…We can discover with nearly each page a new word, or an important political figure, and it is an absolute pleasure for a curious person like me (knowing that, fortunately, a glossary at the end lists the names and specific terms).

My First Sony also has a stunningly vivid writing style : never-ending sentences, but so rhythmic that we barely notice their length, dialogues integrated into the narration, and naïve inner thoughts of the narrator. Yotam, sometimes pushed aside but always listening, is often stepping back to make way to his world’s depiction.

Second reading, second fave ! I definitely recommend this book to all the persons who are curious about culture or simply want to discover a clever piece of literature, with a galaxy of characters that we finally learn to love and understand, a bit, and with an original and exhaustive point of view on the Israeli society.

> BARBASH, Benny – My First Sony, éditions Zulma – translated from Hebrew by Dominique Rotermund.
> written listening to “Hatikvah” .

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