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“Astonishing galvanic and intoxicating” — The New YorkerFima lives in Jerusalem but feels he ought to be somewhere else In his life he has had secret love affairs good ideas and written a book of poems that aroused expectations He has thought about the purpose of the universe and where the country lost its way He has felt longings of all sorts and the constant desire to pen a new chapter And here he is now in his early fifties in a shabby apartment on a gloomy wet morning engaged in a humiliating struggle to release his shirt from the zipper of his fly With wit and insight Amos Oz portrays a man—and a generation—dreaming noble dreams but doing nothing“One of Oz’s most memorable fictional creations Fima is a cross between Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Joyce’s Leopold Bloom” — Washington Post


10 thoughts on “המצב השלישי

  1. says:

    Amos Oz's most frustrating inane gross boring and conceited novel may also be his most brilliant erudite funny and deeply profound workLet me be frank this book is absolutely tortuous to get through at times actually for most of its length it seems to be everything a book shouldn't be The protagonist is almost completely unsympathetic sometimes being so self obsessed and condescending to those around him that you want spit on the page just to spite him And the few spots of potential evolution and even personal redemption planted throughout the text serve only to cause frustration as he inevitably and kind of spoiler I guess falls right back into the same annoying character patterns that the reader has come to know and scream atThe eponymous protagonist Ephraim Fima is surrounded by characters eually unappealing as each in turn serve only to enable and exacerbate Fima's issues while simultaneously using him as a distraction in their own misguided and frustrated lives Fima to them is basically the dumb ass clown who they do admit is smarter than most if not all of them with the potential to be 'better' but is kept from being so by his numerous failings namely his lack of direction and near pathological apathyOn the surface the story drags and drags Similar to Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Fima for thirty chapters alternates between rising and falling actions Fima fails usually because of himself and even despite his infinitesimal and occasional efforts but unlike Joyce's book the victories and defeats depicted in the story are almost all universally mundane and apparently meaningless From the trials of a filthy apartment with dead bugs spoiled food and dirty laundry all the way up to the biggest issues regarding the state of Israel's involvement with the 'territories' and how these issues affect the way people act dress and even speak down to the most minute changes in the language used to describe both it and simple everyday life Fima lives as a slug observing and commenting but doing nothing otherwise despite his stated and well described boundless potentialThe intellectual analyses running throughout the story serve as commentary both for the main character and the various situations he finds himself in but are all crushed under the inherent apathy and disappointment of not only the inaction and frustrated confusion of the aging 'modern' generation of Israelis but of the condescending and sanctimonious attitude of the previous generation of 'founders' who seem to now exist only to be disappointedNow the story is clearly than just the basic story The metaphor between Fima and his friends and family as both characters and concepts is well shown and Oz navigates the cast admirablyBut where this book not only shines but eventually explodes in literary incandescence and I only really felt this way after finishing the last page though there were pangs and tremors of this feeling brewing from a little after the first uarter or so of the book is in its depiction of the liberation of a tired intellect from the atrophied confines of disinterest disappointment and frustration Fima's mind goes from being mired and listless in a purgatorial swamp to after repeated attempts both half hearted and otherwise being forcefully pulled out of the sludge and the uicksand I can't help but think of a bright and glorious star somehow being magnificently pulled by a man barehanded from the deepest foulest most filthy and disgusting pit and being placed in the heavens not only finally accepting responsibility for the future of both the individual Fima and the nation Israel but also to acceptance of both man's limitless potential seemingly counterbalanced by some ineffable negative truths about the human condition namely the before mentioned pit falls of apathy and ennui along with a shattering evaluation of both what the achieving of the Zionist dream accomplished along with not only what it failed to do but what it was doomed to failing at before the whole enterprise even startedAt first I thought this book was just an established author trying something 'a little different' and would be just a uiet and enjoyable bit of literature from a man who I feel is a writer's writer But whether intentionally or not Amos Oz has produced a work that through the struggle of not only the mind of the reader but of the main character himself has successfully navigated the pitfalls of the most popular understanding of nihilism and emerged from that pit wearied near dead from exhaustion but infinitely brighter in every sense of the word Think of a man battling the world of Camus' The Stranger with Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night'as an at first uiet refrain but eventual warriors call to victoryA mammoth frustration but a brilliant and mandatory read for all lovers of fine literature


  2. says:

    gosh this one's hard to pinpoint a book about a very complex character a loser with an over intellectual mind; obsessed with political and philosophical intricacies and emotionally oblivious; a user and a leech who can't pay his bills or keep his trash from overflowing but who is deeply compassionate and yearns for the unattainable grace of being he calls the third dimension; at once pathetic and somehow impossible to hateand all this set in jerusalem with all the intricacies and contradictions of life in israel the main character fima is perhaps himself a symbol of the paralysis of some israeli left wing intellectuals who have all the solutions for peace in their heads or on paper and yet can't seem to make anything happen in reality


  3. says:

    Amos Oz is a prominent Israeli novelist and essayist who lives in Jerusalem and writes in Hebrew However the protagonist of this novel Fima could have stepped right out of a novel by Saul Bellow I don’t know whether this is owing to Bellow’s influence or whether both men draw on some common sources in Hebrew and Yiddish literature; perhaps a little of each At any rate Fima is a Bellovian character an intellectual idler who agonizes over the troglodytic policies of the Israeli government on the issue of the Arabs the year is 1989 sends articles to newspapers and letters to editors convenes cabinet meetings in his head to resolve vital issues agonizes over his own share of the communal guilt has affairs with numerous women holds forth brilliantly in conversations during which he tries to demolish his opponents has grand poetic feelings talks to himself out loud fights with his businessman father is physically clumsy and socially inept keeps changing his mind all the time can’t perform the simplest household chores can scarcely dress himself to go out plays on the sympathies of his friends and then bores them to death with his garrulousness and is as his father characterizes him not even a shlemiel but a shlemazel the difference?—the shlemiel clumsily knocks over the cup of tea the shlemazel is the one it spills on This is a “character novel” in which we follow Fima virtually hour by hour through several days in which he tries to figure out the meaning of his life—we witness his escapades and ineptitudes his internal and external arguments his bizarre and testy relationships If you like Bellow as I do you’ll certainly enjoy this bookRead Fima aimed a fork at his forehead at his temple at the back of his head and tried to guess or sense what it must feel like the instant the bullet pierces the skull and explodes no pain no noise perhaps so he imagined perhaps just a searing flash of incredulity like a child prepared for a slap in the face from his father and receiving instead a white hot poker in his eye Is there a fraction an atom of time in which illumination arrives? The light of the seven heavens? When what has been dim and vague all your life is momentarily opened up before darkness falls? As though all those years you have been looking for a complicated solution to a complicated problem and in the final moment a simple solution flashes out? Liat Sirkin taught Fima one or two unusual exuisite pleasures but he felt beyond the carnal thrills faint hints of a spiritual elation almost day by day he fell under the spell of a secret mountain joy mingled with a sense of exaltation which endowed him with heightened powers of vision such as he had never experienced before or since During these days in the mountains of northern Greece he was able looking at the sunrise over a clump of olive trees to see the creation of the world And to know with absolute certainty as he passed a flock of sheep in the midday heat that this was not the first time he had lived When Yael wrote to him from Seattle early in 1966 to say there was another man in her life Fima laughed at the trite expression The love affairs of his billy goat year his marriage to Yael Yael herself now seemed as trite as overacted as childish as the underground revolutionary cell he had tried to set up when he was in high school He decided to write her a line or two simply to send his best wishes to her and the other man in her life He sat down at his desk that afternoon and did not stop writing until midday the following day in a feverish missive of thirty four pages he confessed the depth of his love for her But when he prostrated himself and started searching behind the trash can for the lost apple he discovered half a roll a greasy margarine wrapper and the burned out lightbulb from yesterday’s power cut which it suddenly dawned on him was probably not burned out after all Suddenly a cockroach came strolling toward him looking weary and indifferent It did not try to escape At once Fima was fired with the thrill of the chase Still on his knees he slipped off a shoe and brandished it then repented as he recalled that it was just like this with a hammer blow to the head that Stalin’s agents murdered the exiled Trotsky And he was startled to discover the resemblance between Trotsky in his last pictures and his father who had been here a moment before begging him to marry The shoe froze in his hand He observed with astonishment the creature’s feelers which were describing slow semicircles He saw masses of tiny stiff bristles like a moustache He studied the spindly legs seemingly full of joints The delicate formation of the elongated wings He was filled with awe at the precise minute artistry of this creature which no longer seemed abhorrent but wonderfully perfect a representative of a hated race persecuted and confined to the drains excelling in the art of stubborn survival agile and cunning in the dark; a race that had fallen victim to primeval loathing born of fear of simple cruelty of inherited prejudices Could it be that it was precisely the evasiveness of this race its humility and plainness its powerful vitality that aroused horror in us? Horror at the murderous instinct that its very presence excited in us? Automatic living he thought a life of comfort and achievement accumulating possessions honors and the routine eating mating and financial habits of prosperous people the soul sinking under folds of flesh the rituals of social position; that was what the author of the Psalms meant when he wrote ‘Their heart is like gross fat’ This was the contented mind that had no dealings with death and whose sole concern was to remain contented Going to the kitchen he opened the fridge and stood pensively holding the door open fascinated by the mystic light shining behind the milk and the cheeses reexamining in his mind the expression ‘the price of morality’ in the title of the article he had written in the night He found no reason to revise or alter it There was a price of morality and a price of immorality and the real uestion was What is the price of this price ie what is the point and purpose of life? Everything else derived from that uestion Or ought to Including our behavior in the Occupied Territories


  4. says:

    This is a rather charming novel about a sympathetic loser Despite all his set backs Fima is still idealistic He loves those who have rejected him and hopes that his country will act charitably towards the palestinians Fima is a character who could have come out of a novel by Saul Bellow or Mordecai Richler One comes away with the feeling that the Jews in Israel have the same liberal and generous instincts that they do in Montreal and Chicago I found it nice and re assuring but neither innovative nor original


  5. says:

    Well written but boring Took me forever to finish it Titular character got on my nerves sooooooo bad and unfortunately 90% of the book is just his boring annoying thoughts Ugh what a relief it is to be done with this oneThis was my pick for the Middle East category for Book Riot's 2016 Read Harder challenge


  6. says:

    This is my favorite Amos Oz book and the first one I read This is a great book Amos Oz has an incredible talent to paint simple stories with incredible depth and cut open the life of his characters for us to go deep in their soul Any Amos Oz fiction is interesting for this reason but Fima is extraordinary


  7. says:

    The book had some very interesting ideas about a complicated subject the Israeli occupation of the territories but it became very repetitive and dragged on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on


  8. says:

    I had a hard time with this book Such a difficult protagonist to read about


  9. says:

    I rate this book a 357 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best Here is a sample of the neuroses oozing from this book Suddenly a cockroach came strolling toward him looking weary and indifferent It did not try to escape At once Fima was fired with the thrill of the chase Still on his knees he slipped off a shoe and brandished it then repented as he recalled that it was just like this with a hammer blow to the head that Stalin's agents murdered the exiled Trostsky And he was startled to discover the resemblance of between Trotsky in his last pictures and his father who had been here a moment before begging him to marry The shoe froze in his hand He observed with astonishment the creature's feelers which were describing slow semi circles He saw masses of tiny stiff bristles like a mustache He studied the spindly legs seemingly full of joints The delicate formation of the elongated wings He was filled with awe at the precise minute artistry of this creature which no longer seemed abhorrent but wonderfully perfect a representative of a hated race persecuted and confined to the drains excelling in the art of stubborn survival agile cunning in the dark; a race that had fallen victim to primeval loathing born of fear of simple cruelty of inherited prejudices Could it be that it was precisely the evasiveness of this race its humility and plainness its powerful vitality tat aroused horror in us? Horror at the murderous instinct that its very presence excited in us? Horror because of the mysterious longevity of a creature that could neither sting nor bite and always kept its distance? Fima therefore retreated in respectful silence He replaced the shoe on his foot ignoring the rank smell of his sock And he closed the door of the cupboard under the sink gently so as not to alarm the creature


  10. says:

    Have you read Oblomov? I ask because Fima reminds me a lot of Goncearov's famous character the same lovable hateable middle aged man lazy sometime gross annoying and pretty stupid when he is not amazing brilliant He is genuine good but he haven't found yet his inner euilibrium He looks after something but he doesn't know what he wants to do something but he doesn't know what either Only in the holy day of Sabbath he gets the idea of The Third State which becomes clearer with the death of his fatherFima the antihero is a tragic character But Amos Oz managed to create a complex subtle and very funny portrait of him Fima is sharp with the other and himself he has a lucid eye on all his defects but also on his folk's defects He is an atheist in The Holy Land which he thinks is a paradox as the Jews are Think only to the funny paragraph in which the young student at the rabbinic school tries to convince him to wear the phylacteries but not forgetting to offer the best geschäft of Fima's life a driving license for only 300usd all inclusive