Woman in Jerusalem

Woman in Jerusalem

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A woman in her forties is a victim of a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem market. Her body lies nameless in a hospital morgue. She had apparently worked as a cleaning woman at a bakery, but there is no record of her employment. When a Jerusalem daily accuses the bakery of "gross negligence and inhumanity toward an employee," the bakery's owner, overwhelmed by guilt, entrusts the task of identifying and burying the victim to a human resources man. This man is at first reluctant to take on the job, but as the facts of the woman's life take shape--she was an engineer from the former Soviet Union, a non-Jew on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, judging by an early photograph, beautiful--he yields to feelings of regret, atonement, and even love.

At once profoundly serious and highly entertaining, A. B. Yehoshua astonishes us with his masterly, often unexpected turns in the story and with his ability to get under the skin and into the soul of Israel today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156031943
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/01/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 250
Sales rank: 776,980
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

A. B. YEHOSHUA is the author of numerous novels, including Mr. Mani, Five Seasons, The Liberated Bride, and A Woman in Jerusalem. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, and he has received many awards worldwide, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award. He lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

An author, journalist, and internationally reknowned, awarding-winning translator, Hillel Halkin has translated several novels from Hebrew into English.

Read an Excerpt

EVEN THOUGH the manager of the human resources division had not sought such a mission, now, in the softly radiant morning, he grasped its unexpected significance. The minute the extraordinary request of the old woman who stood in her monk's robe by the dying fire was translated and explained to him, he felt a sudden lifting of his spirits, and Jerusalem, the shabby, suffering city he had left just a week ago, was once more bathed in a glow of importance, as it had been in his childhood.

AND YET the origins of his unusual mission lay in a simple clerical error brought to the company’s attention by the editor of a local Jerusalem weekly, an error that could have been dealt with by any reasonable excuse and brief apology. However, fearing that such an apology— which might indeed have laid the matter to rest— would be deemed inadequate, the stubborn eighty-seven-year-old owner of the company had demanded a more tangible expression of regret from himself and his staff, a clearly defined gesture such as the one that had resulted in this journey to a distant land.

What had upset the old man so? Where had the almost religious impulse that drove him come from? Could it have been inspired by the grim times that the country, and above all Jerusalem, were going through, which he had weathered unharmed; so that his financial success, as other businesses foundered, called for vigilance in warding off the public criticism that now, ironically, was about to be aired in newsprint of which he himself was the supplier? Not that the reporter whose scathing feature article would break the story— a political radical and eternal doctoral candidate with the restraint of a bull in this intimate china shop of a city— was aware of all this when he wrote the piece, or he would have toned it down. Yet it was the paper’s editor and publisher, loath to ruin a colleague’s weekend with an unpleasant surprise that might spoil their business relations, who had decided, after taking a look at the story and its accompanying photograph of the torn, bloodstained pay stub found in the murdered woman’s shopping bag, to let the old man respond in the same issue.
Nor was it really such a shocking exposé. Nevertheless, at a time when pedestrians were routinely exploding in the streets, troubled consciences turned up in the oddest places. And so at the end of that particular workday, when the human resources manager, having promised his ex-wife that he would leave the office on time to be with their only daughter, had tried to evade the owner’s summons, the old man’s veteran office manager had refused to let him. Sensing her boss’s agitation, she’d hastened to advise the resource manager to put his family duties aside.

ON THE WHOLE, relations between the two men were good. They had been so ever since the resource manager, then in the sales division, had unearthed several Third World markets for the company’s new line of paper and stationery products. And so, when his manager’s marriage was on the rocks, in part because of his frequent travels, the old man had reluctantly agreed to appoint him temporary head of the human resources division, a job that would allow him to sleep at home every night and try to repair the damage. Yet the hostility engendered by his absence was only distilled into a more concentrated poison by his presence, and the chasm between them— at first psychological, then intellectual, and finally sexual— continued to grow of its own accord. Now that he was divorced, all that kept him from returning to his old job, which he had liked, was his determination to stay close to his daughter.
As soon as he’d appeared in the doorway of the owner’s spacious office, where the elegantly muted light never changed with the time of day or year, the article due to appear in the local weekly was dramatically hurled at him.

“An employee of ours?” The resource manager found that hard to credit. “Impossible. I would have known about it. There must be some mistake.”
The owner did not answer. He simply held out the galleys, which the resource manager read quickly while still standing. The odious article was entitled “The Shocking Inhumanity Behind Our Daily Bread.” Its subject was a forty-year-old woman found critically wounded after a bombing in the Jerusalem market the week before. Her only identifying mark had been a pay stub issued by the company. For two days she had fought for her life in the hospital without any of her employers or fellow workers taking the slightest interest in her. Even after her death, she had lain in the hospital morgue abandoned and unidentified, her fate unmourned and her burial unprovided for. (There followed a brief description of the company and its large, well-known bakery, founded at the beginning of the last century by the owner’s grandfather and recently augmented by the new line of paper products.) Two photographs accompanied the text. One, taken years ago, was an old studio portrait of the owner; the other was of the human resources manager. It was dark and blurry, evidently snapped recently, without his knowledge. The caption noted that he owed his position to his divorce.

© 2004 Abraham B. Yehoshua
English translation © 2006 by Hillel Halkin

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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A Woman in Jerusalem 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started off strong and has well-drawn scenes but the story dragged after a while and I pushed myself to finish it.
suesbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this book, and the indirect way the story was told. I found the content interesting and cared that the protagonist would accomplish his task of burying the victim of terrorism. I also was impressed by how real many of the characters seemed.
AramisSciant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A seemingly simple storyline that leaves a lot of food for thought about what it takes to be humane in far from humanistic circumstances. Reminded me of home and made me want to read the original Hebrew.
whoot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The theme of this book is the responsibility of an employer for its employees. An engineer that immigrated to Jerusalem and works as a cleaning lady for a large bakery is killed in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. She remains in a coma and unidentified for over a week. Eventually a journalist makes a sensational story out of it by connecting her to the bakery by a paystub¿and then slams the employer for not knowing that she was missing. The human resources director of the company, in response to the newspaper story, finds himself first uncovering why she was ¿fired¿ but still being paid, then in charge of the company¿s response. This takes him off on an incredulous journey to the woman¿s homeland, connecting with her son, and deciding where and how to bury the body.The hardest part for me to understand was the premise that the employer should have noticed that the woman wasn¿t coming to work. Once they determined she had been ¿fired¿ and thus wasn¿t expected at work ¿ well, who would have missed her?? But, I worry that this is a very western point of view, different in the Middle East where missing people are more alarming. Frankly, I thought it was more appalling that the family that were her neighbors and landlord didn¿t try and found out where she had gone. Again, from my western point of view the neighbors would be the first to note her absence and might have followed up with an employer. Thus, I found the premise of the book somewhat unbelievable, though unsure if it is just my western perspective or a true challenge of the writing.Still, I enjoyed the author¿s writing, particularly the bizarre relationship between the company owner and the human resources director, and some of the adventures in the woman¿s homeland. I found the descriptions of scenes particularly compelling ¿ the woman¿s home, the abandoned military post, areas of Jerusalem.Overall, I really enjoyed the setting of this book and the premise was interesting but somehow it seemed unfinished.
LukeS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"A Woman in Jerusalem" begins with the discovery by a baking tycoon that a former employee has died and her corpse has languished in the morgue for a week. Worse, a second-rate journalist eager for a wider readership has picked up and sensationalized the story to make the baking company look bad.The acting and somewhat reluctant HR director has a fairly cyincal view of the company owner's motivation when he is assigned a damage-control function. He investigates the case, and the first thing he learns is that everyone except himself thinks the woman who died was beautiful, engaging, and caring. Even though he interviewed her before her hire, the HR director cannot remember her. What follows is a trek from Israel to Russia - the corpse, the HR director, the journalist, and the dead woman's unruly son - to have the woman buried in her home town. What happens along the way is really the story here.The trek means something different to each of our questors. The story deals principally with the HR director (all characters except the deceased are identified only by their titles), who knows something is missing from his life. On the way he is physically and morally purged, and returns to Jerusalem a new man. It's nothing very obvious, but we know of the change, nonetheless.This is a story about individual and communal courage in the face of terrorism. It's also about the extraordinary steps that are sometimes necessary to maintain one's humanity under this constant threat. Mr. Yehoshua has spun an engaging, honest tale, and the sometimes stilted language is a purposeful thing, reflective of the mechanistic workings of modern corporations.
labfs39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An identified woman is killed in a Jerusalem suicide bombing, and the only clue to her identity is a pay stub from a prominent bakery. A journalist uses the situation to attack the bakery for callousness in allowing the woman's body to remain in the morgue unidentified. The owner of the bakery delegates responsibility of the situation to the company's human resources manager, who undertakes to solve the mystery of the woman's identity. At times a mystery story and at times a humorous take on the outcomes of our best efforts, the novel is also a commentary on how people can interact without ever truly seeing the other person. And how people can end up interconnected with the most unlikely of other people if we do open our eyes to the possibilities of human relationships.
fourbears on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fast-paced, plot dominated novel that rings lots of bells and leaves the reader at the end laughing out loud but also seriously exploring the issues it raises. The main character is ¿the human resources manager¿ of a large Jerusalem bakery. He used to be the top salesman but was transferred when extensive travel interfered with his home life. His wife divorced him anyway. The main focus of the novel is a corpse¿and oddly the only character with a name¿Yulia Ragayev, a non-Jewish immigrant from an unnamed Slavic country who came to Jerusalem with a Jewish lover who abandoned her. Her son went back to his father but Yulia remained, employed as a cleaner (though she a trained engineer) at the bakery. She comes to the human resources manager¿s attention when a weekly scandal rag accuses the company of ¿gross negligence¿ in not caring what happened to her. Her body has been in the morgue, unidentified, a week after she was killed in a terrorist attack. The reporter found a pay stub from the bakery in her possession.Other main characters include the owner of the bakery who wants his human resources manager to turn around the negative publicity the company will get from the reporter¿s soon-to-be-published article, the human resources manager¿s assistant (with her husband and baby to say nothing of the human resources manager¿s daughter and ex-wife) as well as the owner¿s assistant and a night manager who was Yulia¿s boss, and who, it turns out, is ¿responsible¿ for the fact that Yulia had a pay stub but was not in fact working at the bakery. There¿s the reporter and the photographer and eventually the honorary consul (located in the unnamed Slavic country) and her husband. Oh, yes, Yulia¿s son and her ex-husband.The situation escalates as the investigation progresses. It turns out that Yulia was beautiful, fair with unusual Tartar eyes. The night manager had let her go because he¿d become obsessed with her and the human resources manager, even though he refuses to look at her corpse, becomes similarly obsessed. He is ¿blamed¿ for the situation¿he is after all the human resources manager and as such responsible for any irregularities connected with personnel. And it also turns out that he interviewed Yulia¿he has his notes on what she told him¿without remembering either her person or her plight. The escalating situation raises touchy issues connected with what happens to immigrants and the effects of living with terrorism as well as nationality and what that means. Even more it raises issues of responsibility for what happens to individuals in a complex society.I won¿t give you any more of the plot¿you need to read it for yourself. It¿s a quick read, but one that will stick with you.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An anonymous woman is killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, and her body lies unidentified and unclaimed. A recent pay stub is found among her belongings, and a news weekly publishes an article, calling the company uncaring and negligent. The elderly owner calls on his human resources manager to uncover the truth and salvage the company's reputation. The human resources manager, recently divorced, is dealing with problems of his own. But he has no choice. Researching personnel records, he discovers the woman was an immigrant from one of the countries in the former Soviet Union, and had come to the city for religious reasons. Although trained as an engineer, she was employed as a cleaning woman on the night shift. She was recently let go, but an apparent clerical error resulted in her continuing to receive wages. The human resources manager meets with her supervisor, learns some interesting details, and finds himself personally committed to locating the woman's family and making arrangements for burial. This becomes a journey of atonement and, while it was initially intended simply to clear the company's name, the human resources manager begins to view it as a personal quest, even though he did not know the woman personally.Yehoshua's prose is terse and understated. The characters do not have names. Yet I found myself caught up in the story, sympathizing with the human resources manager, and mourning with the woman's family. I couldn't put this down and finished it in an afternoon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago