The Drive

. New Vessel. Apr. 2020. 130p. from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. ISBN 9781939931825. pap. $15.95. LITERARY.
DEBUT As Roland Barthes is here quoted as saying, "It is my political right to be a subject which I must protect," a point taken up boldly by Israeli novelist Assulin in this Sapir and Ministry of Culture Prize–winning debut. The story opens with the narrator declaring to his chagrined if supportive parents that he finds the regimentation and reductivism of military life unbearable and will not return to service; they’re now driving to the mental health offices at Tel Hashomer Hospital to arrange for his release from his duties. As the narrator unfolds his distress, readers are left wondering whether he is unduly weak-kneed—he admits offhandedly to giving up frequently on school projects he’s rushed to embrace—or a sensitive soul unable to fit in. Either way, his story exemplifies the individual’s battle against larger forces, and we learn to appreciate his pain.
VERDICT An unexpected story of resistance to military life, sobering and nuanced.


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