David Grossman: I Had a Wish My Book Would Protect My Son Uri

Friday's event was purely literary: no politics, no bereavement or wars, just the written word, poetry, and the writer's mental universe.

"My son Uri spent most of his army service in the occupied territories, on patrols, lookouts, stakeouts, and at checkpoints, and every once in a while he would share with me the things he experienced there," author David Grossman writes in the afterward to his new novel, "Isha Borahat Mibesora" ("Woman flees tidings").

"I had a hunch - or more precisely, a wish - that the book I was writing would protect him. On August 12, 2006, in the final hours of the Second Lebanon War, Uri was killed in South Lebanon .... After the Shiva I returned to the book. Most of it was already written. What changed, more than anything, is the sounding box of the reality in which the final version was written."

Grossman's new book tells the story of Ora and her husband Ilan, who have two sons - Adam, 24, and Ofer, a 21-year-old soldier. Ofer ships out on a major military operation, and Ora has a premonition of bad news. To avoid the torture of waiting around for news, she crisscrosses the country on foot, dragging along an old flame from her youth, Avram. During this journey she tells him about her family and her soldier son.

Grossman began writing the book five years ago, while his elder son, Yonatan, was still in the army, and Uri was half a year away from being drafted. In the afterward, Grossman writes that Uri was very familiar with the book and the characters, and would occasionally ask his father: "What did you put them through this week?"

Full participant

An homage to Grossman was held Friday afternoon at Holon's Mediatech Center, to honor both his latest novel and entire oeuvre to date. Grossman was a full participant in the event: He chose the book excerpts to be read, and sat on stage with the actors and musicians. He listened intently as they read his texts, bringing their own interpretation to the delivery, and discussed the story behind the book and writing process.

Unusually for the publishing industry, the book's promotion does not include interviews with Grossman. Indeed, he has made a point of not giving interviews since the Second Lebanon War. There are events open to the general public in which Grossman takes part, there is his personal column for the Web site of his publisher Hasifriya Hahadasha, and there is the book itself.

Friday's event was purely literary: no politics, no bereavement or wars, just the written word, poetry, and the writer's mental universe.

"My love affair with Grossman began with the book "The Zigzag Kid," actor Idan Alterman said, before reading an excerpt from that work. "I asked him to go steady, and to my surprise he agreed."

Then singer Efrat Ben-Tzur read from the first part of "See Under: Love," about the boy Momik who raises in his cellar, along with other animals, "the Nazi beast." Shaanan Streett, lead singer of the band Hadag Nahash (for which Grossman penned ("The Sticker Song"), read from the second part of the novel, which deals with the Jewish-Polish author Bruno Schulz. "I didn't know I wrote it in rap," Grossman quipped after Streett finished reading.

A large screen in the background showed slides of paintings by Grossman's favorite painter, Avigdor Aricha. Karin Ophir performed love songs by Grossman set to music by David Peretz, and read an excerpt from his novel "Someone to Run With." Singer Eran Tzur read an excerpt from the epistolary novel "Be My Knife." She was followed by actor Dror Keren reading from "The Book of Intimate Grammar."

Rona Keinan and Yoni Rechter, together, gave wonderful renditions of two Grossman poems that can already be considered classics: "End," for which Keinan wrote the music, and "At a Coffee Shop," to Rechter's composition.

Finally, Grossman reads a scene from his new book. Ora tells Avram about one simple and beautiful moment in the life of her family, when she, her husband and two children go out to a restaurant. Without a doubt, Grossman is his own best reader, the most precise, the most moving.