It's in Your Head, and Yet It's Real

Last night, at 7:39 P.M., I finished reading page 759 in the seventh volume of the chronicles of Harry Potter. From the moment I got the book, at 02:02 A.M. yesterday, on the western pier of the Tel Aviv port, I invested a net 11 hours and nine minutes in reading, and it was certainly enjoyable.

In the entire history of book publishing there has never been another operation in which a book's publication time and the details appearing in the above paragraph (book length and reading time), and who will finish first and run to tell the guys (but won't reveal how it ends) are nearly as important as the literary value of the books themselves. So I will say from the outset that the final book, and the operation as a whole, prove that J.K. Rowling not only knows how to sell. She knows how to write, she knows the literature and culture relevant to her story. In a review in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called it "magpie talent." But it's more than that: Rowling created an epic framework with a psychological and cultural depth structure, which conveys - to readers of various ages and levels - fundamental truths in a manner that is fascinating, rich, hugely inventive, and also pleasurable.

I know how it ends, but I won't tell you. Not because I don't want to, but because you don't want to know, because you want to find out for yourselves. From the first book, the question of who will die has hovered over the series. Rowling has demonstrated that she is not afraid to kill off beloved characters: Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, in Book 5, the headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, in Book 6. But the only crucial question relates to the life of Harry Potter, who is the series' hero (and convention holds that the hero of an eponymous series cannot die; but Rowling doesn't always abide by convention), and the life of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the incarnation of evil and Harry's arch-nemesis, Voldemort, whom Harry senses inwardly thanks to the scar left on his brow by their first encounter. In the final book Rowling kills quite a few characters, some of them beloved, and you get a little choked up reading it. But Harry comes to the decisive showdown with Voldemort ready to die. He doesn't even wield his wand. And this earns him a chat with Dumbledore, in some reality that is neither life nor death, in which the beloved teacher explains to Harry that unlike Voldemort, and Dumbledore himself, Harry is not selfish (he spares his enemies' lives even when this endangers him) and really his entire life's journey was to teach him and the readers that evil is part of life, because what is important is not the wand, but the wizard, and most importantly: death is part of life. Only those who understand this - and Harry, in contrast to Voldemort, understands, albeit at a steep and painful price that includes recognizing that the good aren't perfect, and that the bad have their human moments (even Dudley) - can truly be master of life and death.

Rowling ties up many loose ends in this book and keeps the reader guessing on the key question up to page 743, but perhaps more important than all this is the exchange between Dumbledore and Harry, which reminds Harry of the Kings Cross railway station (where the famous Platform Nine and Three-Quarters is located). Harry's final question to Dumbledore is: "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?" To which Dumbledore replies: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry , but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" That goes for Book 7, the entire series, and literature in general.