Friday, April 24, 2009

Old Men at Midnight (Jewish Literature Challenge #4 of 4)

Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors. He wrote The Chosen, The Promise, the Asher Lev books, and Davita's Harp. I actually wrote a paper about The Chosen when I was in high school and I liked doing it. Old Men at Midnight is a book of three short stories connected to Ilana Davita Dinn from Davita's Harp. The stories are not about Davita, but rather about some of the people she comes in contact with through her life. In "The Ark Builder," seventeen year old Ilana meets Noah Stremin, the only survivor of the Nazi destruction of his village in Poland.

When Ilana is is working on her doctorate in "The War Doctor", she convinces a former KGB interrogation officer to write the story of his life - the horror of war, the anti-semitism in Russia, and the terror of Stalin's reign.

The final story is a bit more psychological than the other two. It is about Benjamin Walter, who Ilana moves in next door to when she is a woman in her sixties writing fiction for a living. Benjamin sees her as something she is not - a well maintained, beautiful middle-aged woman. But Ilana is really overweight and dowdy. But Benjamin's wife is ill and he has too suffered during World War II as a soldier in the British Army. "The Trope Teacher" was the man who had a lasting and painful effect on Benjamin.

Potok's writing is always impressive. He has a wonderful way with language and while it did not strike me in the same way The Chosen and Davita's Harp did, it was a great book.

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