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The Hilltop (2013)

by Assaf Gavron

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1307167,325 (3.57)19
Life in a West Bank settlement from one of Israel's most acclaimed young novelists, skewering the complex, often absurd reality of life in Israel, the West Bank settlers, and the nation's relationship to the United States.
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English (6)  Dutch (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
My favorite part of this book was the understated humor highlighting the contradictions in the way the government treated the settlement. Unfortunately, this ended up being small part of the story. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Gabi, his brother Roni, and their history which was often pretty messed up. I definitely didn't go into this expecting an issue book. I didn't expect something especially gritty. As a result, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there was in this book, including some bad things happening to animals. I realize sometimes that sort of thing can add to the story, but in this case, I felt it was unnecessary.

I was curious about Gabi and Roni's history, but definitely not as hooked as I've been by other dual narrative past/present stories. I also wasn't especially engaged in finding out what happened to the settlement. As a result, the plot felt slow. The characters didn't pull me in either. The author did an impressive job making some really terrible characters sympathetic, but it wasn't enough. Gabi came across as an unrepentant psychopath who experienced very little character growth. The ending wrapped up rapidly and unbelievably neatly. I loved learning a bit more about Israel from and Israeli author, but the book still fell flat for me.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Feb 6, 2015 |
My favorite part of this book was the understated humor highlighting the contradictions in the way the government treated the settlement. Unfortunately, this ended up being small part of the story. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Gabi, his brother Roni, and their history which was often pretty messed up. I definitely didn't go into this expecting an issue book. I didn't expect something especially gritty. As a result, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there was in this book, including some bad things happening to animals. I realize sometimes that sort of thing can add to the story, but in this case, I felt it was unnecessary.

I was curious about Gabi and Roni's history, but definitely not as hooked as I've been by other dual narrative past/present stories. I also wasn't especially engaged in finding out what happened to the settlement. As a result, the plot felt slow. The characters didn't pull me in either. The author did an impressive job making some really terrible characters sympathetic, but it wasn't enough. Gabi came across as an unrepentant psychopath who experienced very little character growth. The ending wrapped up rapidly and unbelievably neatly. I loved learning a bit more about Israel from and Israeli author, but the book still fell flat for me.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Feb 6, 2015 |
My favorite part of this book was the understated humor highlighting the contradictions in the way the government treated the settlement. Unfortunately, this ended up being small part of the story. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Gabi, his brother Roni, and their history which was often pretty messed up. I definitely didn't go into this expecting an issue book. I didn't expect something especially gritty. As a result, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there was in this book, including some bad things happening to animals. I realize sometimes that sort of thing can add to the story, but in this case, I felt it was unnecessary.

I was curious about Gabi and Roni's history, but definitely not as hooked as I've been by other dual narrative past/present stories. I also wasn't especially engaged in finding out what happened to the settlement. As a result, the plot felt slow. The characters didn't pull me in either. The author did an impressive job making some really terrible characters sympathetic, but it wasn't enough. Gabi came across as an unrepentant psychopath who experienced very little character growth. The ending wrapped up rapidly and unbelievably neatly. I loved learning a bit more about Israel from and Israeli author, but the book still fell flat for me.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Feb 6, 2015 |
My favorite part of this book was the understated humor highlighting the contradictions in the way the government treated the settlement. Unfortunately, this ended up being small part of the story. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Gabi, his brother Roni, and their history which was often pretty messed up. I definitely didn't go into this expecting an issue book. I didn't expect something especially gritty. As a result, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there was in this book, including some bad things happening to animals. I realize sometimes that sort of thing can add to the story, but in this case, I felt it was unnecessary.

I was curious about Gabi and Roni's history, but definitely not as hooked as I've been by other dual narrative past/present stories. I also wasn't especially engaged in finding out what happened to the settlement. As a result, the plot felt slow. The characters didn't pull me in either. The author did an impressive job making some really terrible characters sympathetic, but it wasn't enough. Gabi came across as an unrepentant psychopath who experienced very little character growth. The ending wrapped up rapidly and unbelievably neatly. I loved learning a bit more about Israel from and Israeli author, but the book still fell flat for me.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Feb 6, 2015 |
My favorite part of this book was the understated humor highlighting the contradictions in the way the government treated the settlement. Unfortunately, this ended up being small part of the story. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Gabi, his brother Roni, and their history which was often pretty messed up. I definitely didn't go into this expecting an issue book. I didn't expect something especially gritty. As a result, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there was in this book, including some bad things happening to animals. I realize sometimes that sort of thing can add to the story, but in this case, I felt it was unnecessary.

I was curious about Gabi and Roni's history, but definitely not as hooked as I've been by other dual narrative past/present stories. I also wasn't especially engaged in finding out what happened to the settlement. As a result, the plot felt slow. The characters didn't pull me in either. The author did an impressive job making some really terrible characters sympathetic, but it wasn't enough. Gabi came across as an unrepentant psychopath who experienced very little character growth. The ending wrapped up rapidly and unbelievably neatly. I loved learning a bit more about Israel from and Israeli author, but the book still fell flat for me.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Feb 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This stunning novel, like life itself, is packed with incidents both important and inconse­quential, and sometimes you can’t be sure which is which. Yet, as eventful as it is, The Hilltop cares most about the longings and hopes and limitations of the individuals who populate it. The real drama lies in whether they can find forgiveness, redemption, love, or happiness, and—yes—whether they can ever really change.

The Hilltop touches deeper questions of meaning and truth in the way all great fiction does: not by taking sides, but through keen observation of the human comedy with enormous sympathy for everyone in it. It is brilliantly imagined, deeply compassionate, constantly entertaining, and well served by Steven Cohen’s deft, lucid translation. Assaf Gavron has given us nothing less than a modern masterpiece.
 
The Hilltop, just published in a vigorous and colloquial English translation by Steven Cohen, is a “great Israeli novel” in much the same way that Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was a “great American novel.” Like Franzen, Gavron writes realistic fiction with a comic edge that aims to take the temperature of his whole society, to tell us how Israelis live now. Accordingly, The Hilltop embraces all the archetypal settings of Israeli life—the kibbutz, the nightlife of Tel Aviv, even the obligatory stint living among other Israelis in New York. The center of the action, however, is the hilltop settlement of Ma’aleh Hermesh C, a tiny outpost in the West Bank, where a group of intrepid and blinkered Jews are trying to create a community of their own.
added by avatiakh | editTablet, Adam Kirsch (Oct 29, 2014)
 
“The Hilltop is recommended to all readers who enjoy a good story grounded in current events.”

To center-left Israelis and their overseas supporters the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are poison pills that imperil the State of Israel’s Jewish character and democratic form of government, and the settlers are seen as religious fanatics.

To find out just who the settlers really are and what daily life is like in the settlements one such center-left Israeli, novelist Assaf Gavron spent two years living in Tekoa Dalet, a remote hilltop settlement southeast of Jerusalem that became the model for the fictional unauthorized settlement Ma’aleh Hermesh C in his fifth novel The Hilltop (in Hebrew Hagivah), a 448-page doorstopper with a two-page list of characters and a map of the village whose serious narrative is seasoned with satire.

Notwithstanding the political satire, Gavron’s third person narration is sufficiently neutral that right-wing supporters of the settlements will identify with the characters’ plucky ability to persevere under the perpetually postponed evacuation order’s Damocles sword, while left-wing readers will come away with a better understanding of why a two-state solution to the conflict remains elusive and why it may already be too late to implement. The Hilltop is recommended to all readers who enjoy a good story grounded in current events.

Kudos to translator Steven Cohen for rendering Ma’aleh Hermesh C’s immigrant settlers’ beginners’ Hebrew into broken English reminiscent of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Ukrainian translator in Everything Is Illuminated, which is one of the many contemporary American novels Gavron has translated into Hebrew.
 
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Voor Hila, Galli en Maja
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Eerst waren er de velden.
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Life in a West Bank settlement from one of Israel's most acclaimed young novelists, skewering the complex, often absurd reality of life in Israel, the West Bank settlers, and the nation's relationship to the United States.

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Hailed as “The Great Israeli Novel” (Time Out Tel Aviv) and winner of the prestigious Bernstein Prize, The Hilltop is a monumental and daring work about life in a West Bank settlement from one of Israel’s most acclaimed young novelists.

On a rocky, beautiful hilltop stands Ma’aleh Hermesh C, a fledgling community flying under the radar. According to the government it doesn’t exist; according to the military it must be defended. On this contested land, Othniel Assis—under the wary gaze of the neighboring Palestinian village—plants asparagus, arugula, and cherry tomatoes, and he installs goats—and his ever-expanding family. As Othniel cheerfully manipulates government agencies, more settlers arrive, and, amid a hodge-podge of shipping containers and mobile homes, the outpost takes root.

One of the settlement’s steadfast residents is Gabi Kupper, a one-time free spirit and kibbutz-dweller, who undergoes a religious awakening. The delicate routines of Gabi’s new life are thrown into turmoil with the sudden arrival of Roni, his prodigal brother, who, years after venturing to America in search of fortune, arrives at Gabi’s door, penniless. To the settlement’s dismay, Roni soon hatches a plan to sell the “artisanal” olive oil from the Palestinian village to Tel Aviv yuppies. When a curious Washington Post correspondent stumbles into their midst, Ma’aleh Hermesh C becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal and faces its greatest test yet.

By turns serious and satirical, The Hilltop brilliantly skewers the complex, often absurd reality of life in Israel, the West Bank settlers, and the nation's relationship to the United States, and makes a startling parallel between today’s settlements and the kibbutz movement of Gabi and Roni’s youth. Rich with humor and insight, Assaf Gavron’s novel is the first fiction to grapple with one of the most charged geo-political issues of our time, and he has written a masterpiece.
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