The Tunnel

by Abraham B. Yehoshua

Other authorsStuart Schoffman (Translator.)
Book, 2020



Call number




Boston ; New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020


"From the award-winning, internationally acclaimed Israeli author, a suspenseful and poignant story of a family coping with the sudden mental decline of their beloved husband and father-an engineer who they discover is involved in an ominous secret military project"--

Media reviews

At the center of A. B. Yehoshua’s latest novel is a tender 48-year marriage. Zvi Luria is a retired engineer, the former director of the Israel Roads Authority. His wife, Dina, is a pediatrician who cares for both Israeli and Palestinian children. Zvi and Dina are a worldly, liberal, opera-loving
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couple who plan to remain active and involved citizens as they move into their 70s. What could go wrong?
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User reviews

LibraryThing member miss.mesmerized
Slowly he is deteriorating and the verdict is clear: dementia. Zvi Luria, former road engineer, struggles with the diagnosis and the effects of the illness: increasingly, he is forgetting first names and once he could only be stopped at the last moment from picking up another boy than his
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grandchild from kindergarten. When he is invited to a farewell party of a former colleague, he visits his old office where he stumbles upon Asael Maimoni, the son of his last legal adviser, who is now occupying his post. Luria’s wife thinks it would be a good idea to get her husband’s brain filled with work again and thus he becomes Maimoni’s unpaid assistant in planning a tunnel in the Negev desert. When working on the road, he not only profits from his many years of experience that he can successfully use despite his slowly weakening memory, but he also learns a lot about his own country and the people he never tried to really get to know.

Yehoshua is one of the best known contemporary Israeli writers and professor of Hebrew Literature. He has been awarded numerous prizes for his work and his novels have been translated into many languages. Over and over again, Israel’s politics and the Jewish identity have been central in his works and this also plays an important part in his latest novel.

“The tunnel” addresses several discussion worthy topics. First of all, quite obviously, Luria’s dementia, what it does to him and how the old man and his surroundings cope with it. In an ageing society, this is something we all have come across and it surely isn’t an easy illness to get by since, on the one hand, physically, the people affected are totally healthy, but, on the other hand, the loss of memory gradually makes them lose independence and living with them becomes more challenging. If, like Luria, they are aware of the problems, this can especially hard if they had an intellectually demanding professional life and now experience themselves degraded to a child.

The second noteworthy aspect is the road-building which is quickly connected to the core Israeli question of how they treat non-Jewish residents and their culture. Not only an Arab family in hiding, due to a failed attempt to help them by a former commanding officer of the forces, opens Luria’s eyes on what is going on at the border clandestinely but with good intentions, but he also witnesses how officials treat the nomad tribe of Nabateans and their holy sites.

On a more personal level, the novel also touches questions of guilt and bad conscience as well as the possibility of changing your mind and behaviour even at an older age.

Wonderfully narrated with an interesting and loveable protagonist, it was a great joy to read this novel that I can highly recommend.
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LibraryThing member modioperandi
Thanks to NetGalley for my ARC.

This is a wonderfully conceived, structured, and beautifully written novel that really resonated with me. The story centers around Zvi Lurie, a retired road engineer, diagnosed with dementia in its early stages. At first he loses only the first names, but as the plot
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progresses, more details blur in his mind. In an attempt to challenge his disintegrating mind, his wife, a pediatrician, suggests that he volunteer and help with the work he has been doing all his life: road planning, so when the opportunity arises, she matches him to the son, Maimoni, of the attorney who worked with him. In the Ramon Crater

The symbol of the tunnel is certainly important as a metaphor for the union between the people of Israel and the Palestinians and the description of the protagonist's efforts to combat the onset of dementia by using various strategies to counteract the progressive loss of memory is very sweet; but what I liked most is the description of the relationship between wife and husband who, after 48 years of marriage, have a beautiful complicity and show their love by trying to avoid one another worries and sorrows, helping each other to face the daily obstacles that emerge. These parts shine the most in my mind but the rest of the novel too with its turns of phrase and references to Biblical stories as well.

A.B. Yehoshua and Sturat Schoffman, translator, have delivered into English a novel that is just stunningly beautiful. The parts that develops Zvi's relationships with others by way of his dementia are heartbreaking and resonate in a real way. As Zvi, whose name is mentioned so sparsely you do tend to forget it just like he himself does, this and other effects are in the novel that really embody this idea of forgetting, and tunnels, and lost places, and lost and forgotten and cast aside people, it is just so revealing. So - When Luria arrives with my Maimoni in the field, he discovers the hidden motives for planning the road: a family of unidentified people, refugees from the Palestinian Authority. A father and daughter are hiding on a hill designated for alignment. Lurie, who specializes in tunneling and has previously designed similar tunnels on northern roads, is recruited to design a tunnel under the mountain on which the family resided.

The character of the amiable old Zvi becomes more and more detached as the book progresses. If at first I thought it was innocence, as the plot progresses it seems like he's just really losing his cognitive abilities. This is the only credible character in the story. All things are not as they seem though and Zvi's lucidity comes in and out of focus as do the intentions and personalities of the cast. The character of Maimoni Asael starts of friendly and caring but is also sort of to very creepy and exploitative in the way that he treats the Palestinian girl Yala. The whole subplot of the book that deals with the relationship between Jews and Palestinians is complex and for an outsider reading a translated work it was interesting to read the story from at least on point of view.

A.B. Yehoshua has written a beautifully heartbreaking story about love and loss and what it means to lose, love, identity, self, power, and self initiative. The Tunnel thoroughly explores dementia and forgetfulness as a metaphor and way to understand the world at large and relationships up close. This is a timely novel that begs to be read and reread in this moment and frankly all moments when, most of all, our minds are at stake.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
Zvi Luria, a retired road engineer, lives in Tel Aviv with his wife Dina, a pediatrician. Zvi has recently been diagnosed with dementia--forgetting people's names and the code to his car. His wife and doctor think the progress of the disease would be slowed if became more involved with life, which
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results in Zvi becoming the unpaid assistant to a young road engineer (who is also the son of one of Zvi's former colleagues). The young engineer has been tasked with designing a road through a crater in the Neghev desert for military use. For reasons they want to keep from the authorities, Zvi and the young engineer want to build a tunnel through a hill for the road rather than destroying the hill, which would be a cheaper option.
Although there is a lot about road building in this book (and also a lot about the plight of the Palestinians in Israel), I read the book more as a portrait of a long, good marriage, as well as a story about the perils of aging. Zvi and Dina must come to terms with and live as best they can with Zvi's condition. The book is narrated from Zvi's point of view (and the confusions and mishaps he suffers as a result of the dementia are brilliantly portrayed). The portrait of Dina (through Zvi's eyes) is also beautifully conveyed. This was a lovely little book.

4 stars
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Original language



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