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Yosef Haim Brenner's last, great novel is set in the Jewish settlement in Palestine, the yishuv, in the years leading up to the First World War, when the future tragic pattern of Arab-Jewish relations was taking shape. Brenner himself was murdered in Jaffa by Arab rioters in the spring of 1921, just a year after the publication of this novel.
Brenner's Hefetz is a wanderer in search of a spiritual homeland. His desperate attempt to build a new life in Palestine has been taken to symbolize the entire Zionist enterprise. Far more than an absorbing period piece, Breakdown and Bereavement is the universal story of individual loneliness integral to the human condition. Brenner's writing comes alive in a fluent and sensitive rendering by Hillel Halkin, the distinguished translator of Agnon, Berdichevsky, Amos Oz and Haim Sabato.
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