Annotations for Debba


Baker & Taylor
Now living in Canada, expatriate David Starkman returns to Israel after the murder of his father and finds that his father's will stipulates that he produce a play, "The Debba," within forty-five days of his father's death.

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Blackwell Publishing
"Sharp, biting prose distinguishes this first novel... [Mandelman] deftly blends a murder mystery with a nuanced examination of the intransigent Israeli-Arab conflict."---Publishers Weekly, starred review

"An absorbing and captivating novel that bridges the uncomfortable political gap between the Palestinian and Israeli sides."---Kirkus Reviews

"Mandelman's stories veer from heartbreaking to hilarious, and all of them depict Israel's desperate fragility and the horrific lengths to which its citizens must go to survive."---New York Times Book Review

"Taut, nuanced... a rich multigenerational chronicle of Israel since its birth"---Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Mandelman... complicates the underside of Israeli culture, teasing out the roots of violence and prejudice in this alternately dark and humorous collection."---Publishers Weekly

"It takes either naivete, chutzpah, blinding self-confidence, testicular fortitude, or perhaps a combination thereof to write fiction such as the title story of this collection... a gutsy and thoughtful writer."---The Jerusalem Report

In 1977, having renounced his Israeli citizenship and withdrawn from his family, David Starkman is living a new life in Canada, haunted by persistent nightmares following his military service as a clandestine assassin. When news reaches him of his father's gruesome murder, he reluctantly returns to his homeland for what he hopes will be the final time.

Back in Tel Aviv, David discovers that his war-hero father was also the author of a controversial play called "The Debba," which was performed only once, in 1946, causing a massive riot. In the lore of the Middle East, the Debba is a mythical Arab hyena that can turn into a man who lures Jewish children away from their families. To the Arabs he is a heroic national symbol; to the Jews he is a terrorist. David learns that his father's will demands that the contentious play be staged within forty-five days of his death. Reluctantly David agrees. Pursued by the security services---and perhaps by the Debba itself---he is forced to reimmerse himself in a life he thought he'd escaped for good. But the heart-stopping climax shows that nothing in Israel is as it appears, and not only are the sins of the fathers revisited upon the sons, but so are their virtues---and the latter are more terrible still.

Under the guise of a breathtaking thriller, Avner Mandelman has written a novel that reveals Israel's double soul, its inherent paradoxes, and its taste for both art and violence. The riddle of the Debba---the myth, the play, and the novel---is nothing less than the tangled riddle of Israel itself.

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Random House, Inc.
Winner of the 2011 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel

In Middle East lore the Debba is a mythical Arab hyena that can turn into a man who lures Jewish children away from their families to teach them the language of the beasts. To the Arabs he is a heroic national symbol; to the Jews he is a terrorist. To David Starkman, "The Debba" is a controversial play, written by his father the war hero, and performed only once, in Haifa in 1946, causing a massive riot. By 1977, David is living in Canada, having renounced his Israeli citizenship and withdrawn from his family, haunted by persistent nightmares about his catastrophic turn as a military assassin for Israel. Upon learning of his father's gruesome murder, he returns to his homeland for what he hopes will be the final time. Back in Israel, David discovers that his father's will demands he stage the play within forty-five days of his death, and though he is reluctant to comply, the authorities' evident relief at his refusal convinces him he must persevere. With his father's legacy on the line, David is forced to reimmerse himself in a life he thought he'd escaped for good.The heart-stopping climax shows that nothing in Israel is as it appears, and not only are the sins of the fathers revisited upon the sons, but so are their virtues--and the latter are more terrible still. Disguised as a breathtaking thriller, Avner Mandelman's novel reveals Israel's double soul, its inherent paradoxes, and its taste for both art and violence. The riddle of the Debba--the myth, the play, and the novel-- is nothing less than the tangled riddle of Israel itself.

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Random House, Inc.
In Middle East lore the Debba is a mythical Arab hyena that can turn into a man who lures Jewish children away from their families to teach them the language of the beasts. To the Arabs he is a heroic national symbol; to the Jews he is a terrorist. To David Starkman, "The Debba" is a controversial play, written by his father the war hero, and performed only once, in Haifa in 1946, causing a massive riot. By 1977, David is living in Canada, having renounced his Israeli citizenship and withdrawn from his family, haunted by persistent nightmares about his catastrophic turn as a military assassin for Israel. Upon learning of his father's gruesome murder, he returns to his homeland for what he hopes will be the final time. Back in Israel, David discovers that his father's will demands he stage the play within forty-five days of his death, and though he is reluctant to comply, the authorities' evident relief at his refusal convinces him he must persevere. With his father's legacy on the line, David is forced to reimmerse himself in a life he thought he'd escaped for good.The heart-stopping climax shows that nothing in Israel is as it appears, and not only are the sins of the fathers revisited upon the sons, but so are their virtues--and the latter are more terrible still.  Disguised as a breathtaking thriller, Avner Mandelman's novel reveals Israel's double soul, its inherent paradoxes, and its taste for both art and violence. The riddle of the Debba--the myth, the play, and the novel-- is nothing less than the tangled riddle of Israel itself.

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