Once in a while, all of us have picked up a book; be it by chance, at a fellow book lover’s insistence, or plainly because it was the only book lying around; and the book has completely given us a fresh perspective on something that we never gave much thought to before.
Well, Exodus did that for me. Not for any political, religious or idealistic reasons, though these are the threads that run the darkest through the fabric of Exodus. But because of the undercurrent of human emotions that runs just below the surface and springs out with great gusto at just the right moments.
Exodus is prima facie the book about the struggle of the Jewish people to establish a nation and hence a proud identity of their own. Now lets face it, to most of us born in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, the World War and the Post World War era of human history sounds light years away. The era before that is even beyond our conception. And this is roughly the period in which Exodus is set.
It gives us glimpses into the suffering of the Jews prior to the World War II, throws at us episodes of human depravity and unparalleled valor alike from the World War II and goes on to paint a passionate yet bloody picture of the desperation, struggle and fulfillment of the Jewish struggle for a state of Israel.
All along it portrays almost every human emotion with amazing poignancy and sensitivity.
There’s the longing and hope of a sixteen year old child-woman Karen Clement, there’s the anger of her beau, the seventeen year old concentration camp graduate Dov. You can feel the passion for life and everything that matters of 20 year old female soldier Jordana Ben Canaan and the bitterness of her tired yet fierce old uncle Akiva. The sensitivity and confidence of the great Barack Ben Canaan and the complete faith of his wife paints a picture of a very meaningful, fulfilling marriage.
The part English, part Jewish Brigadier Sutherland is the perfect example of an Englishman blessed and cursed with a conscience in times of terrible injustice. The helplessness of an Arab village headman and a close friend of the Jews causes as much of heartbreak as the pitiful state and the immense morale of Jewish children weaned on the thought of “Eretz Israel”
However, as perfect as all the characters and situations are, there’s that one story of perhaps the two most infuriatingly powerful characters in recent literature, that takes my breath away – the love story of Ari Ben Canaan, the Jewish military man and Kitty Fremont, the American nurse. He is a true blue soldier – charismatic, intelligent, fierce and very much in love in love with his country; she, a very womanly woman – beautiful, compassionate, strong and very much in love with Ari Ben Canaan.
The battle and the love that rages between them can put even the most smoldering love story to shame. The soldier in him wont let him confess his deep and urgent need for her and the woman in her must have him stripped of his tough exterior, baring his soul. They come closer and drift away back and forth, each encounter more damned than the previous.
The suffering of Israel and the suffering of Ari and Kitty, the battles fought by the Israeli army officer Ari Ben Canaan against the invading Arab armies and against the woman he loves is the stuff of legends.
The climax is heartbreakingly hopeless and relievingly hopeful.
Exodus brands your conscience and leaves you with the weirdest feeling ever- like you haven’t read a work of fiction but some epic belonging to the long lost ages.
A must read, for all those who set a store by books that touch your soul! I’d give it a 4.5/5.
– Deepika Divekar, Guest Blogger