Dinner at the Center of the Earth - Nathan Englander

Staff Pick

Rife with spies, false identities, and twisting loyalties, Nathan Englander’s compelling second novel is a taut psychological thriller. The narrative loops through Europe and the Middle East, recounting how a “Jewish-American boy from Long Island” became “an Israeli operative, living undercover in Paris,” until “a crime of political passion” ended his career with the Mossad and, effectively, his life. Now Prisoner Z, he’s lived for twelve years in a government black site near the Negev Desert, his existence known only to his guard and the General. The General, however, is confined even more severely than his prisoner. “A dead man so powerful he continues to live,” he’s been in a semi-conscious state since a stroke ten years before, his mind replaying the loop of war and revenge he spent his life caught up in. His memories and those of other characters include cameo appearances by Arafat, Abbas, and Olmert, and Englander’s fiction is also a portrait of fraught Israeli-Palestinian relations. His characters embody various shades of idealism, hope, anger, frustration, and cynicism about the elusive peace, and both sides love the country, celebrate its everyday joys, and lament the daily woes of living there. What’s the answer? The novel ends with the eponymous Dinner at the Center of the Earth (Knopf, $26.95), which takes place in the tunnels between Israel and Gaza. Dug in preparation for the next war, the tunnels on this occasion allow a pair of lovers—one a Palestinian and locked inside Gaza, the other Israeli and locked out of Gaza—to meet in the underground no-man’s land. Absurd, symbolic, a mere stunt, but it points to the essential connection between individuals, despite the politics.

Dinner at the Center of the Earth: A novel By Nathan Englander Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524732738
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - September 5th, 2017

Forest Dark - Nicole Krauss

Staff Pick

In Forest Dark (Harper, $27.99), Nicole Krauss trains her fierce intelligence and keen eye on the story of two Americans in Israel.  Jules Epstein is a man in transition, following the death of his parents and his recent divorce.  He’s in Israel with the intention of finding worthy recipients of his philanthropy, but instead finds a transformative experience reimagining the life of King David.  Nicole is a novelist who comes to Tel Aviv in hopes of relieving a debilitating writers-block.  Meeting a literature professor, she’s told a story about the novelist Franz Kafka—notably, his life in Israel and a supposed trove of never published documents.  Krauss creates through her characters the insecurities that rise from intense introspection, the dislocation of oneself in one’s environment, and the never-ending wonder of experience.

Forest Dark: A Novel By Nicole Krauss Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062430991
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Harper - September 12th, 2017