There are books that draw you in from the very first lines. Like the fourth novel by the Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen: In the first scene, it turns out that the first-person narrator’s teenage son, Adam, is said to have committed a murder. And from then on the reader trembles with her.
But “Where the wolf is lurking” is not a crime thriller, you wouldn’t do the novel justice if you put it on the genre shelf. It’s not about the search for the murderer, but about the life of a family that falls apart and falls apart: a life far away from home that unexpectedly develops differently than hoped. Gundar-Goshen, who also works as a psychologist, draws her protagonists as complex characters.
She tells about the relationship between Lilach Schuster and her husband Michael, Israelis who emigrated to California because Michael was attracted to a career in one of the successful start-ups in Silicon Valley. Lilach is a wife, housewife and mother who also volunteers in a retirement home. Their everyday life is perhaps typical for Palo Alto of people trying to settle down. Also by adapting.
The permanent danger marks people’s relationships
Above all, they wanted to get away: as parents, Lilach and Michael wish Adam would grow up thousands of kilometers away from the Middle East conflict. Untouched by the maelstrom that one inevitably gets sucked into when, like the author, one lives in Tel Aviv. For example, because rocket fire can suddenly become a reality. But what if, in the distance, another threat becomes a reality? In this case, an attack on a synagogue in the middle of the USA, not far from their new place of residence. This threat comes very close – even non-religious Jews cannot escape it.
Gundar-Goshen impressively describes what it does to people to be confronted with anti-Semitic attacks. It can be about a knife attack in a synagogue, but it can also be about graffiti on a school building: the author concisely portrays the feeling of being constantly in danger, of being different, of not quite belonging.
What is special about this book is the perspective in which the author shows many things that are taken for granted in Israel: the primacy of the family, the feeling of togetherness that develops during the three-year period in the army for men. Gundar-Goshen makes it understandable that working in a military unit leaves behind a sense of responsibility and duty that one cannot escape from in another country. And explains why Michael and Lilach in particular get involved with the former elite soldier Uri, who emigrated from Israel like her.
Gundar-Goshen herself lived in California with her family for a while and returned to Israel from there. Therefore it can be assumed that her own experiences are included in the novel. She describes – another strength of this book – with a clear perspective the society of the USA, its fractures, its inner turmoil. Even if US President Donald Trump is not named, it also shows very clearly the effects of his policies on a country where racism is part of the everyday experience of many people. The boy who is killed in the murder in the opening pages is black. But is he also a victim?
This novel tries to convey that clear explanations are impossible, that anti-Semitism exists just like Islamophobia. The question is also negotiated as to how defensive each individual may or even must be.
It forces readers to ask: How would I act in this situation?
Gundar-Goshen drives the story forward professionally, you can tell that she not only studied psychology but also screenwriting. Her second novel “Löwen Awakening”, published in 2015, is currently being filmed as a TV series. It is about a doctor in the Negev desert who runs over an Eritrean refugee and commits a hit-and-run. Flight, expulsion and responsibility – wherever the author deals with current topics in her novels, she forces her readers to give up their own position again and again and to ask themselves: How would I act in this situation?
For her debut, Eine Nacht, Markowitz, published in 2013, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen was awarded the Sapir Prize, which is not only the most prestigious, but also the best endowed literary prize in Israel. Ruth Achlama translated three of her four books – the most important mediator between the Hebrew and German languages and between the cultures. Achlama has translated more than seventy books, including many by Amos Oz, David Grossman and Meir Shalev. She is currently working on a book by historian Tom Segev about his father. It is also thanks to Achlama’s sensitivity that the novel “Wo der Wolf lurks” in all its nuances can be understood so splendidly in German.
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, who was born in 1982, impressively shows the literary talents of the younger generation in Israel, and that there is still a lot to discover beyond the old masters Oz and Grossman. It is also thanks to the Swiss publishers Kein & Aber that books by younger authors such as Noa Yedlin, Yonatan Sagiv and Yishai Sarid are translated into German. Novels like Where the Wolf Lurks convey a Jewish-Israeli perspective, in this case with a suspense that lasts until the very last pages of the book. And this ending is very different than expected.