Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Betrayers by David Besmozgis

I think this was my favourite Bezmozgis book yet.  His language is so tight yet descriptive that even though there is not a lot of action I was hooked right away.  I felt like I was in the Crimea with the characters even though it's a part of the world I know very little about.

The whole novel takes place over the course of 24 hours.  And even though the characters remember the past, Bezmozgis does not even make use of flashbacks which, personally, I think are sometimes overused.  The narrative centres on Baruch Kotler.  He was a Soviet era Jewish "refusenik" who eventually made his way to Israel after the fall of the Soviet Union.  He was famous for never giving up, never betraying others and having a wife who emigrated early in his imprisonment to Israel, but never left his side and was extremely vocal, keeping his cause in the news.

Once in Israel, Kotler becomes active in Israeli politics.  However, at this juncture he does not support the government's decision to forcibly evacuate several settlements.  Someone, who he thinks is an agent of the Prime Minister, threatens to reveal an affair he's been having if he does not retract his position.  He refuses to budge and the affair is revealed.

So the next day Baruch and his mistress, Leora, also a Russian immigrant but much younger and with few memories of the Soviet era, travel to the Crimea in an effort to escape detection.  Baruch has fond memories of one summer spent in Yalta as a boy.

By chance, Baruch encounters the Jewish KGB spy who betrayed him all those years ago.  And as the title suggests, this book addresses how Baruch handled this betrayal now that he is finally able to face it.  As well as the impact it has on his betrayal of his wife and children.

I strongly recommend this book.

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