Yolanda – a novel


by Moshe Sakal


ISRAEL : Keter ;  FRANCE : Stock


French edition, Stock publishing house, La Cosmopolite, 2012

Momo was born into an Israeli family of blended Sephardic origins, with a paternal grandmother from Damascus and Yolanda, a maternal grandmother, the focal point of this novel, from a French-speaking family inCairo. Both women arrived in Tel Aviv at the time of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Yolanda’s stalwart personality leaves its mark on Momo’s childhood. From his frequent visits with his grandmother, Momo is able to describe her life in detail, as well as the lives of his great-aunts and his eccentric great-uncle, all exiled from their Cairene paradise.

As Momo learns about Yolanda’s life, some enigmatic questions arise. What caused her twenty years earlier to banish her husband Georges, Momo’s grandfather, whose very name she now refuses to utter? Who was Yaakov, the love of her life, who had fought in the Jewish underground and died at the hands of Arabs inJaffa? Momo poses endless questions about his family’s past, until one day he discovers a painful secret that compels him to reexamine his life and those of his loved ones. As the novel draws to its climax, these revelations expose tensions that have vexed the family over the years.

Israeli edition, Keter publishing house 2011

The book’s narrative momentum carries the reader through various times and disparate locales in language that is both poetic and full of humor. Yolanda paints a dynamic portrait of an entire immigrant generation still conjoined to the landscapes, sounds and literary works of their youth. The novel establishes a connection not often enough dealt with in literature: the ties between grandparent and grandchild.

Focusing on the immigrant generation and that of the grandchildren in search of their roots, the author explores, through day-by-day rituals and the tension of languages and cultures remembered and forgotten, the complexity of Israeli contemporary life.

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