Darryl's Reviews > Jerusalem

Jerusalem by Gonçalo M. Tavares
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's review
Apr 01, 2010

really liked it
Read in December, 2009

Jerusalém was originally published in Portuguese in 2005, and it won the Prémio Literário José Saramago (José Saramago Literary Award) that year. It was translated into English by Anna Kushner, and published by Dalkey Archive Press this past October.

The story is centered around several solitary residents of a small unnamed city, each of whom walk toward the center of town in the early morning hours of May 29th. Mylia is a terminally ill woman who cannot sleep due to chronic pain and leaves her house to seek solace in any church that is open at 4 am. Ernst is about to jump out the window of his attic apartment, but a phone call from Mylia, his former lover, interrupts his plans. Theodor Busbeck is Mylia's ex-husband, a noted psychiatrist whose widely derided magnum opus on the history of genocide and its victims has led to his professional isolation and downfall; he waits for Hanna, a prostitute who he meets on the way to town. His crippled son Kaas searches for his father, after he realizes that Theodor is not in his bed. And Hinnerk Obst is a deranged war veteran supported financially by Hanna, who spends his days preparing for the enemy and aiming his gun at the school children playing at recess.

The story travels back and forth from the present fateful set of encounters to the characters' past experiences, which both enriches the story and adds to the tension of its denouement. Dr. Busbeck's theories of evil perpetuated by the strong against the weak in times of joblessness, boredom and stress are expounded upon, yet he is unable to predict or control immoral and evil acts committed by and against his family and loved ones.

I found Jerusalém to be a compelling and tense psychological drama, which could easily be read in one sitting. According to the book cover, it is part of a series that the author calls The Kingdom, and the other novels in this series will be released by Dalkey Archive Press in the near future. I will certainly be on the lookout for these books, as Jerusalém was an excellent read.
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