Bend of the Affair: Grossman Navigates Love's Lost Highways

In his new book, Her Body Knows, Israeli writer David Grossman ruminates on infidelity in a pair of novellas that are, as the title suggests, grounded in the physical. But Grossman is much too cerebral to stay there. With these stories—one told during a surreal car ride, the other as a bedside tale delivered to a dying mother—Grossman demonstrates that the body only knows what the mind will allow it. In "Frenzy," a severe academic named Shaul enlists his sister-in-law, Esti, on a feverish nighttime drive to find his wife, who he believes is having an affair. Besotted with jealousy, Shaul begins to recount the story of his spouse and her longtime lover, including the details of their daily trysts. The professor and his earthy in-law soon find themselves entangled in an extraordinary conversation that explores family, marriage, passion, and—underneath it all—sweet longing.

Suffused with delirious tension and characters more substantial than in most novels twice its size, "Frenzy" alone would make the book. Indeed, the beguiling title story, about a prodigal daughter trying to piece together her bohemian mother's ruinous relationship with a young yoga student, feels almost slight in comparison. But they each tread the same dark terrain—a place where love is pursued not only for affection, but also as a means to defy the stultifying sense of a "simpler version of reality."

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Her Body Knows
By David Grossman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 264 pp., $25
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Clarity of purpose—and passion—remains elusive here. These are tales of people bound to one another by misperception and delusion as much as they are by tenderness and understanding. Her Body Knows is an apolitical book, but in the looming psychological chasms between Grossman's characters there are resonances with his 1988 masterpiece The Yellow Wind, a journalistic survey of Jewish settlers and Palestinian refugees. Remarkable how in a country so small, distance can be so important.

 
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