Monday, April 05, 2010

A Magical Tale - a Mini-Review of "The Song of the Whales" by Uri Orlev

Uri Orlev has written a loving and mystical novel - really, a novella - that captures in poignant intimacy the special relationship between a grandson and his aged grandfather in Jerusalem.

Michael, the protagonist of "The Song of the Whales," is an introspective boy who does not easily make friends in America. When his family decamps to Israel and he becomes "Mikha'el," his only true friend is his paternal grandfather, Mr. Hammermann. Mikha'el and his Grandpa share one another's dreams and the mystical ability to manipulate "slight distortions in reality."

Orlev, in this book wonderfully translated by Hillel Halkin, delicately touches on the issue of the impending death of the beloved grandfather. He and the boy speak openly about this issue, and the boy is torn over the issue of wanting to use an imaginary "anti-time machine" so that time would freeze and he could always have his grandfather with him. But, he realizes that he himself would never grow, so he comes to accept the wisdom and inevitably of time moving on with its perennial blend of new births and ever-present death.

This book, easily read in one sitting, appears to be a mere appetizer, but offers a belly full of food for thought.



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