Fiction Meir Shalev The Loves of Judith

ISBN 13: 9780880016353

The Loves of Judith

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9780880016353: The Loves of Judith

The extraordinary story of three men in the Jezreel Valley and their love for Judith and her son, whom each man participates in raising as his own. When Judith arrives in a small, agricultural village in Palestine after World War II, she is the center of everyone's attention--especially Moshe, a widowed farmer obsessed with his dead wife and his lost braid of hair, which his mother cut off in childhood; Globerman, a coarse cattle dealer who loves women, money, and meat; and Jacob, a farmer who gives up his wife, the most beautiful woman in the village, to turn his energies toward raising canaries and wooing Judith with all his might. For ten years the three men strive to win Judith's exclusive love, but she will not agree to marry any one of them. In her eleventh year in the village she gives birth to a son named Zayde, who looks like all three men. All three consider him their son, and all three participate in raising him. Judith finally marries Moshe, but within a few weeks she is killed under a tree that collapses during a snowstorm. This extraordinary quasi-mythological tale is told many years later by an adult Zayde, as he learns the details of his mother's life over meals elaborately prepared for him by Jacob. A universal story of love and destiny, "The Loves of Judith" masterfully combines classic Israeli characters with magic realism, as cows, canaries, and crows all act as emissaries of fate, along with a homosexual Italian prisoner-of-war who knows all there is to know about love.

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Review:

On a precarious frame--three men contending for the love of one resolutely perplexing woman--Meir Shalev arrays a tale so bittersweet and lyrical that it's nearly possible to overlook a stunning bit of sleight of hand: in an unabashed love story, the romance becomes tangential. For The Loves of Judith is, ultimately, an hommage to love itself--its elusiveness, its pain, and, above all, its endurance.

During the pause between world wars, Judith, the woman in question, arrives in a small Palestinian village to tend house for Moshe Rabinovitch, a widowed farmer. Confused by her past waywardness, Judith chooses to live in Moshe's cowshed, cries at night for the daughter she's lost, and finds herself adored not only by the stoically formidable Moshe but also by a randy and conniving cattle dealer named Globerman and the garrulous canary breeder Jacob Sheinfeld. "Man makes plans and God laughs," Globerman explains, and as the three men clumsily scheme to win Judith's love, she remains imperturbable, the still point at the center of their longings. Most desperate of all is Sheinfeld, who cares little that his unconcealed love has made him a fool before the entire village. He seeks only "the eternal picture of love," and finds consolation in a life seasoned with consuming desire.

The story is resolved slowly by Judith's son Zayde, who may be the child of any of the three men--or, remarkably, all three. And so the men raise him, care for him, love him. Over several years, Jacob discloses very nearly all the details of Judith's world to Zayde. "What did you think, that I told you everything?" Jacob finally asks. Like love itself, the story fulfills because it has the grace not to overwhelm. --Ben Guterson

About the Author:

Meir Shalev was born in Nahalal, in the Galilee. He studied psychology, worked as an ambulance driver and a journalist and is currently a columnist for "Yediot Achronot," a leading Israeli newspaper, as well as a television and radio moderator. Shalev is the author of two novels, "The Blue Mountain" and "Esau," which was a bestseller in Israel, several books of criticism and many children's books. His work has been translated into several languages. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and two children. When he is not writing, Shalev is an avid off-road racing enthusiast and can be found test racing motorcycles and dune buggies across deserts from Israel to Kenya.

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Meir Shalev
Published by Ecco Press (1999)
ISBN 10: 0880016353 ISBN 13: 9780880016353
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