To the End of the Land
|Original title||אשה בורחת מבשורה|
|Genre||anti-war novel, literary fiction|
|Publisher||HaKibbutz HaMeuchad Publishing House, Ltd (1st edition)|
|2008 (1st edition)|
Published in English
|21 September 2010 (1st American edition)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Pages||592 (Hardcover, 1st American edition)|
To the End of the Land (original Hebrew title "Isha Borachat Mi’bsora" – "A Woman Escapes from a Message") is a 2008 novel by Israeli writer David Grossman depicting the emotional strains that family members of soldiers experience when their loved ones are deployed into combat. Grossman began writing the novel in May 2003 when his oldest son Yonatan was serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and the book was largely complete by August 2006 when his younger son Uri was killed in the Second Lebanon War.
Originally written in Hebrew, an English translation by Jessica Cohen was published in September 2010 to widespread critical acclaim. Translation of this work presented a considerable challenge to the translator, as the original includes numerous Hebrew puns as well as quotations from and allusions to the Hebrew Bible as well as works of modern Hebrew literature.
Ora, a recently divorced Jerusalemite physiotherapist in her early fifties, had anxiously waited for her son Ofer to get through his three years' term of military service – spent mainly in confronting and skirmishing with the rebellious Palestinians of the Second Intifada. But just as she prepares to mark Ofer's safe return by going off with him to a long-planned week of backpacking in the Galilee, the West Bank situation sharply escalates and the Israeli Army launches an all-out invasion ("Operation Defensive Shield" of April 2002). To Ora's great dismay, Ofer volunteers to rejoin his unit. Taking him in a taxi to the base camp, Ora is filled with apprehension that Ofer is going to get killed, and compares herself to the Biblical Abraham who took his son off to be slaughtered. Back in her empty home, she is haunted by unbearable visions of army officers knocking on her door and bringing the message of Ofer's death in action, and at a moment's notice she runs off "To the End of the Land".
Ora's wanderings and trekking through the Israeli countryside make up the bulk of the book's plot. She refuses to listen to news broadcasts or read papers, but cannot help noticing monuments of old battles and the inscribed names of dead soldiers. Interspersed with Ora's various experiences – surrealistic, nightmarish and sometimes humorous – are memories of previous events in her life, love relationships and motherhood, and the way it was impacted by earlier wars and conflicts in Israel's history.
The story moves back and forth in time with extensive flashbacks, going back to the 1967 Six Day War – when the teenager Ora was confined to a hospital isolation ward where she met two boys, Avram and Ilan, fell in love with both of them and entered into a very complicated, lifelong love triangle. It would be Avram who would eventually father Ofer, while Ilan would become Ora's husband, lovingly raising this son. Avram would become terribly traumatized after undergoing torture as a prisoner of war in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and cut himself off from her and from his son – despite, or precisely because of, caring greatly. But at the ultimate crisis in the story's present moment, Avram would reappear to share Ora's desperate quest.
To the End of the Land was nominated for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and won the 2011 JQ Wingate Prize. The novel's French translation, Une femme fuyant l'annonce, won the 2011 Prix Médicis étranger award for the best book published that year in translation. In August 2011 it was among the books which U.S. President Barack Obama took with him on vacation.
A blurb by Nicole Krauss in praise of To the End of the Land received widespread attention as, according to one characterization, "the most laudatory quote ever attached to a book." The blurb read as follows:
Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. "To the End of the Land" is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I've ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. "To the End of the Land" is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.
- Packer, George (27 September 2010). "The Unconsoled: A writer's tragedy, and a nation's". The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- Sela, Maya (31 January 2011). "Israeli writers named finalists in top U.S. book award". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2011
- Sela, Maya (11 June 2011). "News in Brief". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- Slack, Donovan (20 August 2011). "Obama plans lots of reading". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- Flood, Alison (6 July 2010). "'The most gifted writer I've ever read': outblurb the Grossman fans." The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- Miller, Laura (9 July 2010). "Beware of blurbs." Salon. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- Ferguson, Lee (9 July 2010). "Novelist Nicole Krauss delivers a book blurb for the ages." CBC News. Retrieved 28 February 2012.