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In their hotel room, he is struck by
a painting and later finds out that it is
Roman Charity. The painting reminds
him of the dispute that ended his col-
laboration with his longtime screen-
writer, who worked on these early
films and had been Ruth's lover.
Returning to Israel, Moses seeks
him out, with hopes of reconciliation
and a different kind of collaboration.
The screenwriter presents him a chal-
lenge, and the conclusion of the novel
is daring, with a mix of Cervantes
and Don Quixote, considered the first
"For me, coming to Don Quixote,
this is my retrospective — going
back to sources of the imagination,"
The descriptions of the films sug-
gest some of Yehoshua's earlier short
stories, and he admits that two of
them are directly based on "The
Yatir Evening Express" and "The Last
Commander" while the others are
imagined. If the novel might seem
like a retrospective of Yehoshua's own
career and the shifts he has made,
he'd rather talk about his own interest
in the creative process.
He's a writer who takes seriously
the professions of his heroes, whether
they are engineers, lawyers or garage
owners. This is the first time he's
written about an artist.
Here, he creates relationships
between the director, cinematogra-
pher and screenwriter that show the
dynamics between wild imagination,
ideas and aesthetics. As a novelist,
he performs all of these functions,
directing, creating images and devel-
oping the storyline.
In fact, the dispute between the
Ashkenazi director and Sephardi
screenwriter is about art — the
screenwriter sees a failure of imagina-
tion in the director. For the screen-
writer, there are no boundaries in art,
and no humiliation; art and meaning,
even beauty, can be drawn even from
the most terrible of sources.
Theirs is really a conflict between
artistic integrity and moral commit-
ment, one of the book's underlying
Yehoshua believes that art has no
borders. But, he says that creating art
is "not for the sake of breaking bor-
ders, but to reach new understand-
ings of life."
The rift between the two men
also reflects Israel's societal break,
between Jews of European back-
ground and those from Sephardic, or
Oriental backgrounds, between reli-
gious and secular.
"My feeling is that without coop-
eration between these two elements,
the identity of Israel is in trouble. We
need not just an attempt at coopera-
tion, but," he says, weaving his fingers
together in the air, "a mutual feeling
of each other.
"I am a believer in reconcilia-
tion with the Arabs, with factions in
society; I am eager to contribute to
reconciliation," says Yehoshua, who is
known for his alignment with Israel's
left. "I believe in the concept of man's
ability to change:'
He speaks of Zionism as a move-
ment of optimism, based in the tenet
that the future can be different from
The conversation shifts to the
recent elections and peacemaking
with the Palestinians, which is high-
est on his national priorities.
"I am optimistic:' he says. Some on
the left, he says, look toward Obama
as messiah, but he warns that Obama
can't do the job for the Israelis.
"In Israel, you have to be educated
in democracy — it's in the genes of
Americans. You're born from democ-
racy. You know, 'No taxation without
Frowning, he mentions the pos-
sibility of an apartheid state, without
democracy, if all citizens are not
treated equally. He chides American
Jews to become more involved with
the peace process.
"I am not a navi (prophet) and I am
not a ben-navi (the son of a prophet):'
Yehoshua says softly, before resuming
his high-energy exchange.
He's the author of a play recently
produced at Tel Aviv's Cameri
Theater, Can Two Walk Together?,
about David Ben-Gurion and Zev
Jabotinsky and a series of meetings
they held in London about their polit-
ical differences in the 1930s.
Yehoshua enjoys sharing the detail
that Ben-Gurion once cooked an
omelet for Jabotinsky. In 1959, while
a student, Yehoshua met with Ben-
Gurion — his father's friend Yitzhak
Navon was then Ben Gurion's political
secretary — when he was hired to do
research for the prime minister about
the talmudic redactor Rav Ashi.
While Yehoshua is secular, he's very
interested in questions of religion.
He mentions the Hebrew writer S.
Y. Agnon, who for his generation
of novelists is like Tolstoy: the rare
example of a writer able to bring art
and religion together.
While Yehoshua invented the
film institute in Santiago that was
affiliated with the Catholic Church,
he admires the ways in which the
Catholic Church embraces art in
many forms, whether painting, sculp-
ture, music or literature.
"I am still waiting for the encounter
between Judaism and art," he says. ❑
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