Patriciahoperose's Reviews > To the End of the Land

To the End of the Land by David Grossman
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Mar 23, 12

Read in March, 2012

"What a strange person, she thought. You can never tell if he's serious or joking, if he's very smart or a total idiot. He keeps changing.

"She recalled the way he had said earlier that in these years he was interested in voices - 'in all these years'! From which previous years he had been interested in other things, that snob, as if he already knew that in 'the next years' - ha! he would have yet other interests. Smart aleck. But she, she where had she been 'in these years'? What has she wasted herself on? All she'd done was cheat everyone and sleep with her eyes open. That was her big accomplishment. A cheating pro, sleepwalking champion of the world . . . her hands moved, her legs moved, her mouth babbled constantly, she was all noise and bells, but her brain was empty and desolate, her body a desert wilderness."

"Because of all these reasons it was very important that she observe him as much as she could, to learn how he had been able to avoid becoming embittered all these years . . . She was astonished to see - and wished she could learn from him - how he managed to avoid attributing the daily humiliations, large and smal, to some personal defect of his own, as she would undoubtedly do with great fervor were she, God forbid, in his position - and as she in fact had been doing, truth be told, quite a bit during this lousy year. Somehow, within all the chaos, all the mess, he remained a free person, which she herself only rarely managed to be."

"Now it grows and swells and threatens to burst: her stupidity, her failure in the principled and complicated matter of being a gentle human being in this place, in these times. Not just being gentle, or ladylike - but being intentionally and defiantly gentle, being a gentle person who dives headfirst into the local vat of acid."

" . . . and Ilan too, of course, the master of shitters, who once, about thirty years ago, had sworn that his purpose in life was to protect the corners of her mouth so that they would always curl upward. Ha."

"And I dragged my corpse into the kitchen, she thought to herself. It was an expression of Ilan's, her ex, the man who had shared her life and, in their good years, enriched the goodness. The fullness of life, the old Ilan used to say and blush with gratitude, with reserved, awkward enthusiasm, which propelled Ora toward him on a wave of love."

"She thought to herself, Shut up and listen, what harm could it do to gain a little strength, even with his help? Do you have such reserves of strength that you can pass up even a drop of reinforcement?"

"Truth be told, she does not ye feel ready to admit to him, to an almost stranger, how amazed she was, and how it taunted her even to see how this young woman effortlessly attained something she herself had never even tried to demand from her three men: their full recognition of the fact that she was a woman, her discrete self-definition as a women in a house of three men, and the fact that being a woman was not just another of her annoying whims, nor a pathetic defiance of the real thing, which was how the three of them often made her feel."

"Then she came up with the idea that maybe she wouldn't do her army service and would go to London for a year instead, to sell sunglasses and make some money and study art and experience things."

"Once, when he used to look at her like that, she would immediately open herself to him, allowing him to see into her inner depths unhindered. She did not let anyone else see inside her like that. Not even Ilan. But she was always easy with Avram - such a horrible word, "easy"; she was always easy with Avram, letting him see all of her, almost from the first moment she met him, because she had a feeling, a conviction that there was something inside her, or someone, perhaps an Ora more loyal to her own essence, more precise and less vague, and Avram seemed to have a way to reach her. He was the only one who could truly know her and could pollinate her with his look, with his very existence, and without him she simply did not exist, she had no life, and so she was his, she was his prerogative."

"He nodded to himself, as though he enjoyed hurting himself with her words. She saw the color drain from his bronzed temple and from the cheek that faced her, and again, as always, she was amazed to discover how precious and important she was to him, yet how he constantly withheld the simple security of that knowledge from her."

"Because even when he was a POW, and increasingly after he came home, he always latched on, at the last minute, to Thales, the Greek philosopher he had admired as a youth, who said there was no difference between life and death. When asked why, in that case, he did not choose death, Thales replied, Precisely because there is no difference."

"The truth is, I don't even know how I would get along in life without your help, and without the way you took care of me in all kinds of bad situations that Mom and Dad don't even know about . . . And I think, that there's no one else in the world who knows me like you do, knows all my most private stuff, and who always, from the minute I was born, did only good things for me . . . and there's no one in the world I trust like you, and value and love like you. No one."

"And you know how when you're a kid, and some grown-up plays with you, you're always afraid of when they'll get sick of you? When they'll look at their watch, when they'll have something more important to do than be with you? But Mom, she never got sick of it before I did, not with anything. I knew that no matter what, she'd never stop a game before me . . . That's something that gives you strength for your whole life. That's something that makes a person happy, isn't it?"

"His gaze is distracted and vacant. She sees the house through his eyes. The cleanliness, the symmetry of the rugs and the pictures and the little knickknacks. He seems to find it hard to believe that such refinement exists in the world. The softness is unbearable to him."

"It was amazing how all the people around her controlled themselves while she was falling apart. Sometimes she even suspected that the three of them were able to control themselves precisely because she was crumbling and that in some strange way, upholding some hidden and complicated economics, she was even conducting her embarrassing, shameful collapse instead of them, and perhaps for their sake."
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