Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review by Slingrider 10 -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch


[Following is a volunteer review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]

Book Cover

3 out of 4 stars

Review by Slingrider 10

The Expelled, a novel by Mois Benarroch, is a story within a story, within another story, presenting varying characters in each story similar to Russian nesting dolls. Minor characters are introduced by their circumstances rather than physical attributes, i.e. Ofelia, a travel neighbor; Oizona, seat number 38, considered himself their leader; Domingo, owner of the gun; Sade, a sort of Napoleon, Amijai, a good neighbor; Olvido, with cancer and dying; a woman fleeing holocaust and mutilation; Son of Bentato, the man who never knew his father; Cash, the murdered saint; or the girl from the back of the bus wishing to be ugly rather than pretty to avoid another rape.

Kudos are well deserved for translator, Pamela Doccahe, in preserving the voice of Benarroch. Although, this is a work in prose fiction, the novel beats with a cadence of verse – the author’s heartbeat, amazingly not lost in the translation. The author states in one instance that he visits the world of “prose as a tourist.” The novel is wrought with proverbial metaphors and an occasional philosophical ponder.

Benarroch chose to write this novel in the first person, creating the surface impression of an autobiography. Real or perceived – what author doesn’t put a piece of himself into a novel?

The Expelled is not a light read suitable on a commuter train with demands for awareness of a next stop or the beach with children in tow. It requires a solitary, absorbing read the first time through. I did not enjoy the read in the advance copy on page 48: “…he (he should be she) leaned back and said she couldn’t, that she was a married woman.” Such a small hiccup, a print error, a he in place of a she, however, it caused a break in concentration. Had this jolt to my concentration appeared on any other page, it may not have been disconcerting. However, it was positioned between pivotal paragraphs bearing the novelist’s explanation of Expelled in the title.

The Expelled is a compact novel in length that mesmerizes its reader, attaching a slim line connecting the central character for several stories offered in first person. Benarroch reveals struggles for a Jewish writer, the highs and lows of his chosen profession. Sex scenes between mistress and lover are written in lustful detail. The events for a 30-hour bus trip from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean are surreal, similar to sleep walking in a nightmare. Benarroch successfully cloaks his character, Dospasos, in innocence via simplistic dialog, deterring authorities accusing Dospasos of Al-Qaeda terrorism and cannibalism. Interrogation conversations from his cell are in contrast to philosophical and intellectual thoughts spent elsewhere in the novel. As the author intended, I was alarmed by the unquestioned acceptance of both proclaimed rulers and down-trodden bus riders for their lack of respect of human worth.

I believe this novel has potential for lively book club discussions based on the regular appearance of metaphors reminiscent of dream interpretation from the Old Testament. Example: “Then I saw a cow's head dropping a few inches from where I was, and another followed, and the third almost dropped on my head but I moved to the side and hit myself against a tree. They were all olive trees. And some of them were split in two because of the wall, trees in two worlds.”

I would have preferred smoother transition from one story to the next. I rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars.

The Expelled 
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