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Overview

Mr. Mani is a deeply affecting six-generation family saga, extending from nineteenth century Greece and Poland to British-occupied Palestine to German-occupied Crete and ultimately to modern Israel. The narrative moves through time and is told in five conversations about the Mani family. It ends in Athens in 1848 with Avraham Mani’s powerful tale about the death of his young son in Jerusalem. 

A profoundly human novel, rich in drama, irony, and wit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780358315148
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 12/03/2019
Sales rank: 776,288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

A. B. Yehoshua is the author of numerous novels, including The Lover, 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.


Erin Bennett is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a stage actress who played Carlie Roberts in the BBC radio drama Torchwood: Submission. She can be heard on several video games. Regional theater appearances include the Intiman, Pasadena Playhouse, Arizona Theatre Company, A Noise Within, Laguna Playhouse, and the Getty Villa. She trained at Boston University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.


Matthew Waterson was born in Los Angeles. After university in Boston and drama school in London, he now lives in NY where he works in theater and voice over. In voice work he has been heard on ESPN, ABC, Speed Channel, Logo, and inDemand. He is the radio voice of Twinings Tea and the voice of Sabra Dips.


Neil Dickson is an actor and audiobook narrator who was a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award in 2011 for Best Audio Drama narration. His extensive acting roles in television and film include Sons of Liberty and the role of King Richard in Lionheart.


Nicholas Guy Smith, an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator, is a highly rated and diverse voice-over actor who has been heard in feature films, television commercials, and video games. He has voiced characters for Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, and the Cartoon Network.


Jason Culp, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, has been acting since the age of ten, and his credits include a variety of television, theater, and film roles. He is best known for his role as Julian Jerome on General Hospital. In addition to audiobooks and voice-over work in national commercials, he has also narrated documentaries for National Geographic and the History Channel.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

FIRST CONVERSATION

Mash'abei Sadeh 7 P.M Friday, December 31, 1982

The Conversation Partners

HAGAR SHILOH Born in 1962 in Mash'abei Sadeh, a kibbutz thirty kilometers south of Beersheba that was founded in 1949. Her parents, Roni and Ya'el Shiloh, first arrived there in 1956 in the course of their army service. Hagar's father Roni was killed on the last day of the Six Day War as a reservist on the Golan Heights. As Hagar was five at the time, her claim to have clear memories of her father may well have been correct.

Hagar attended a regional high school in the nearby kibbutz of Revivim and finished her last year there without taking two of her matriculation exams, English and history. She began her army service in August 1980 and served as a noncommissioned counseling officer with a paratroop unit stationed in central Israel. Because her base was far from her kibbutz, she spent many of her short leaves in Tel Aviv, where she stayed with her paternal grandmother Naomi. She was very attached to this grandmother, from whom she liked to coax stories of her father's childhood. The old woman, who enjoyed her granddaughter's lively presence, sought repeatedly to persuade her to register at the University of Tel Aviv after the army. And indeed, upon finishing her military service, the last months of which were highly eventful because of the outbreak of the war in Lebanon in 1982, Hagar flouted the wishes of her mother, who wanted her to return home for at least a year before beginning her higher education, and persuaded a general meeting of the kibbutz to allow her to continue her studies. This decision was facilitated by the fact that, as the daughter of a fallen soldier, Hagar stood to have her tuition fully paid for by the ministry of defense.

Hagar hoped to study film at Tel Aviv University. However, lacking a high school diploma, she was not accepted as a fully matriculated student and was first required to register for a yearlong course to prepare her for the exams she had missed. She was also asked to take courses in Hebrew and mathematics to upgrade her academic record.

In early December of that year, at the urging of her son Ben-Zion Shiloh, Hagar's uncle and the Israeli consul in Marseilles, Naomi decided to take a trip to France. In effect this was in place of her son's intended visit to Israel the previous summer, which was canceled when the consulate was forced to work overtime to present Israel's case in the Lebanese war. Although loathe to leave her beloved granddaughter for so long, she could not refuse her only son, a forty-year-old bachelor whose single state worried her greatly. Indeed, she was so determined to help find him a suitable match that she stayed longer than she had planned in order to attend the various New Year's receptions given by the consulate.

Hagar, a short, graceful young woman with the dark red hair of her late father, looked forward greatly to having her grandmother's large, attractive apartment to herself. At first she thought of asking her friend Irees, whom she had met at the university, to stay with her. Irees's father had also been killed in battle, in the Yom Kippur War, and she had an amazing knowledge of the various benefits and special offers that the Ministry of Defense made available to young people like themselves. In the end, though, she was unable to accept the invitation, which was just as well for Hagar, since at the beginning of that month she had struck up a relationship with an M.A. student named Efrayim Mani that could now be pursued in her grandmother's apartment. Her new boyfriend taught Hebrew in the preparatory course, and their romance got off to an intense start before he was called up on December 9 for reserve duty in the western zone of Israeli-occupied Lebanon, a far from tranquil area despite the newly signed "peace treaty" between Jerusalem and the government in Beirut.

YA'EL SHILOH, NÉE KRAMER Born in a suburb of Haifa in 1936, Ya'el was highly active in a socialist youth movement and left high school in 1952 for a year of training in a kibbutz as a youth counselor, as a result of which she never graduated. In 1954 she began her army duty, serving with a group from her movement in the kibbutz of Rosh-Hanikrah near the Lebanese border. It was there that she met her future husband Roni Shiloh, a movement member from Tel Aviv. Trained as a paratrooper like the other boys in the group, he saw action in a number of border raids and in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. In their final months in the army Ya'el and Roni were stationed in Mash'abei Sadeh, a young kibbutz in the Negev desert. They liked it well enough to stay on and become members after their discharge, and in 1958 they were married. Both of them were employed in farm work, Roni in the grain fields and Ya'el in the fruit orchards. In 1962, after returning from a tour of Greece sponsored by the Israel Geographical Society, they had their first child, a daughter to whom they gave the biblical name of Hagar, as seemed fitting for a girl born in the desert. Four years later, in 1966, they had a second baby, a boy, who died several weeks later from acute hepatitis caused by his parents' incompatible blood types, which the hospital in Beersheba had neglected to test them for. With proper precautions, the doctors assured them, all would go well the next time. However, there was to be no next time, because Roni was killed in the Six Day War along the Kuneitra-Damascus road.

Despite the pleas of her own, and especially, of Roni's parents that she leave the kibbutz for Tel Aviv, Ya'el remained with her five-year-old daughter in the desert, which she more and more felt was her home. She knew of course that in a place so small and remote her chances of remarrying grew poorer from year to year, but she liked her work and was eventually put in charge of a special project to develop new methods of avocado growing. During the Yom Kippur War, when the general secretary of the kibbutz was mobilized for a long period, Ya'el was chosen to fill in for him. Although some of the members found her overly rigid ideologically, she stayed in the position for several years to the satisfaction of nearly everyone. Her relations with her daughter Hagar were intense but far from easy. Now and then, encouraged to get away by her friends, she attended kibbutz-movement workshops in education and psychology. Sometimes she even traveled to Beersheba for special guest lectures in the psychology and education departments of the university. In 1980, although by now a woman of forty-four, she let herself be persuaded to sign up for a singles encounter group, at the end of which she swore never again to do such a thing.

Ya'el feared that the close ties developed by her daughter with her grandmother, a widow since the mid-1970s, would entice her to leave the kibbutz, which was why she opposed Hagar's studying at the university immediately after finishing the army. Indeed, when Hagar applied to the kibbutz for a leave of absence, Ya'el secretly lobbied against her. In the end, however, Hagar was granted her wish in accordance with the liberal policy then prevalent in most kibbutzim of giving young members just out of the army ample time to "find themselves" before pressuring them to return. The stipend offered her by the defense ministry was also a factor in mustering a majority in her favor. After settling in Tel Aviv, she kept in close touch with her mother via her grandmother's telephone. The two made a point of talking twice a week even though the members of Kibbutz Mash'abei Sadeh did not yet have private phones in their rooms in 1982.

Ya'el's half of the conversation is missing.

*
— But even if I disappeared, Mother, I didn't disappear for very long. You needn't have worried ...

— But I did phone you, Mother. I most certainly did, on Wednesday evening from Jerusalem.

— Of course. I was still in Jerusalem Wednesday evening. Yesterday too.

— Yesterday too, Mother. And this morning too. But I left you a message.

— How could you not have gotten it?

— Oh, God, Mother, don't tell me that another message of mine got lost!

— How should I know ... whoever picked up the phone ...

— Some volunteer from Germany.

— But what could I have done, Mother? It's not my fault that no one in his right mind on the whole kibbutz will pick up the télé- phoné in the dining hall after supper, because no one wants to have to go out in the cold and run around looking for whoever it's for. Why don't you try getting the kibbutz some winter night, to say nothing of talking in English to a foreign volunteer who's too spaced out to hold a pencil. If you did, you'd understand what a mistake you made when you led a crusade against private telephones as if the future of socialism depended on it. Lots of other kibbutzim have had private phones for years. They take them for granted as a necessity of life ...

— I've yet to see the kibbutz that went bankrupt from its phone bills, Mother. That's just your fantasy.

— But I didn't disappear, Mother. I simply left Tel Aviv for three days.

— With him? Fat chance of that! He's still with the army in Lebanon. But it was because of him that I went to Jerusalem to see his father, and I was stranded there until this morning.

— I stranded myself.

— But that's the whole point, Mother. That's the whole point of the story ...

— No. It started snowing there Wednesday afternoon, but by yesterday it had all melted.

— No. That old coat was given me by his father. Mr. Mani.

— That's how I think of him. Mr Mani. Don't ask me why.

— But that's the whole point of my story. That's the only reason I came home today, because it's crazy to be sitting here with you when I should be in Tel Aviv studying for an exam ...

— I told you. I have an English exam on Monday, and the last thing I want is to flunk again.

— No. I left all my books and notebooks in Grandmother's apartment in Tel Aviv. I didn't take a thing with me to Jerusalem on Tuesday, certainly not any books. I thought I was only going for a few hours, to do Efi this favor. But once I was there I felt I couldn't leave, and so I stayed for three whole days ...

— No. I didn't come via Tel Aviv. I came straight from Jerusalem. It was a last-minute decision. I was waiting in the bus station for the Tel Aviv bus when all of a sudden I saw this middle-aged redhead standing on the next platform. He was someone I recognized from around here, I think from Revivim, and it made me so homesick that I just couldn't wait to get back to our own darling little boondocks and tell you everything, Mother. I couldn't hold it in any longer. I was always like that. Don't you remember what you've told me about myself? I could be in the nursery, or at school, and if some child fell and hurt himself, or if the drawing I was working on tore, I had to tell you so badly that I would run outside to look for you and shout the minute I found you, "Hey, Ma, listen to this!" ...

— Right. I always got away with it, because I had this knack for latching onto ... how did you used to put it?

— Yes. Right. That's it ...

— Yes, that's it. To some surrogate father who would do anything I asked, maybe — it's a pet theory of mine you're sure to like — because he felt guilty that it was my father and not him who was killed. And so everyone took me in tow and passed me on, from the dining hall to the laundry, from the chicken coops to the cowshed, from the stables to the fodder fields, and on to the orchards and to you, Mother, who I threw myself on and told everything. Which is just how it was in Jerusalem today, standing in line in that station among all those wintry, depressive Jerusalemites when suddenly the bus for Beersheba began pulling out and I saw that redhead looking out the window at me — maybe he was trying to guess who I was too — and suddenly I couldn't stand it any longer, I missed you so badly that I jumped over the railing and was on the steps and inside the bus before I knew it. But the first thing tomorrow morning, Mother, I have to get back to Tel Aviv and to my books, or else it's another F for sure. You'll have to find me someone who is driving there, and if you can't think of anyone, think again ...

— All right.

— No, wait a minute. Take it easy. I didn't mean this second ...

— But what's the rush? I feel so cold inside. Let me warm up a little first.

— It will take more than just hot water.

— Don't be annoyed at me, Mother, but for my part I can skip the Sabbath meal in the dining hall.

— I'm not at all hungry. Whatever you have in the fridge will be fine.

— That's okay. Whatever you have. I'm really not hungry.

— If you're so starving that you must go, then go. I'm staying here. I'm sorry, Mother, but I'm just not up to sitting in the dining hall and smiling at everyone all evening. Followed by that New Year's Eve party with all its phony revelry ... I absolutely will not take any chances and dance ...

— All right, all right. Go. What can I say? Go. What more can I say?

— Go ...

— Go. I'm already sorry I came here instead of going straight home ... I mean to Tel Aviv ...

— Because I didn't think of it as coming to the kibbutz tonight, Mother. I thought of it as coming home. To you. To tell you about what happened in Jerusalem ...

— I'm not being mysterious. Stop being so critical ...

— All right, fine, so I am a little mysterious ... maybe mysterious is even the best word for it ... but so what? What's wrong with a mystery? Suppose you open the door of a strange house and are so horrified by what you see there that your soul, yes, your soul, Mother, is sucked right out of you ... but the mystery, you see, isn't the horrifying part, because anything really horrifying has to be obvious and isn't mysterious at all. The mystery is in the encounter, even if it just seems like a coincidence. And that's what happened to me, that's what I went through in Jerusalem, even if you're not going to believe it ...

— Because you're not, Mother. You've been educated all your life not to believe in mysteries, and you're certainly not going to believe in mine. In the end I know you'll tell me that I just imagined it all ...

— But there isn't any quick version. There's no quick way to tell it, Mother.

— Because if I did, it really would sound like a figment of my imagination ...

— You know something, it doesn't matter. Let's forget it, it's not important. Go have dinner, and I'll take a shower. The whole thing really doesn't matter, Mother. I was wrong and now let's forget it ... Just do me a favor and ask around in the dining hall if anyone is driving to Tel Aviv in the morning and has room for me ...

— No, I'm just not in the mood anymore to tell you about it. Maybe you're even right and I did imagine it all ...

— I know. You may not have said it yet, but it's not my fault that I always know what you're going to say.

— I'm sorry.

— All right. I'm sorry, Mother.

— I said I'm sorry.

— No, I really thought you didn't feel like hearing about it now ...

— Are you sure?

— But maybe you shouldn't miss the Sabbath meal in the dining hall. It's a ritual you're so attached to ...

— Are you sure?

— Well, then, Mother, if you think you can skip it, how about doing it properly, so that we can sit here in peace and quiet? Let's draw the curtains to keep the light in, and let me lock the door for once ... Where's the key?

— Please, just this once. I beg you, Mother, let's shut out the world to keep it from knowing we're here, so that no one comes and bothers us. We'll put some water up to boil ... and turn the heater on ... but where's that key?

— Later. I said I'd take one later ... I'm bursting too much to tell you my story to take time to shower now ... Why must you always make such a fuss about showering?

— So my dress is a little sweaty ... it's no tragedy ...

— Fine.

— No, Mother, it's the same.

— Maybe a little nausea now and then.

— No, it's the same.

— Is that what you're still hoping?

— But why? I've already told you, Mother, I knew right away it was real. I'm absolutely certain. I can feel it encoded inside me ...

— This thing ... the embryo, the baby ... whatever you want to call it ...

— You can do the arithmetic yourself. My last time was on the nineteenth of November. I'm exactly two weeks overdue ... there's nothing else it can be ...

— But what do I need some doctor poking around inside me for? What more can he tell me? And anyway, I already saw a doctor in Jerusalem ...

— An internist.

— I'll get to that.

— Soon, Mother. Why can't you be more patient?

— He did ... just a minute ...

— No. Just a quick checkup.

— Just a minute ...

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Mr. Mani"
by .
Copyright © 1989 A. B. Yehoshua.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Table of Contents,
Copyright,
Dedication,
The Conversation Partners,
FIRST CONVERSATION,
The Conversation Partners,
Biographical,
SECOND CONVERSATION,
The Conversation Partners,
Biographical,
THIRD CONVERSATION,
The Conversation Partners,
Biographical,
FOURTH CONVERSATION,
The Conversation Partners,
Biographical,
FIFTH CONVERSATION,
The Conversation Partners,
Biographical,
The Manis,
Read More from A. B. Yehoshua,
About the Author,

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