In a candid interview, the Israeli author on Netanyahu’s impotence, how his son’s death affected his latest novel, and Israel’s need to embrace Palestinians with humanity.
Guernica You began writing To the End of the Land six months before your son Uri joined the Israeli army. In the afterward, you mention that you started this book as a way to protect him, just as Ora’s expedition through the Galilee was meant to keep her son, Ofer, alive. Is Ora a doppelgänger?
David Grossman: I think all characters are in my books. Even if I didn’t know it in the beginning, they become [doppelgängers]—not only from the point of view of what happened later in my life, but usually when I write about the character in the beginning I do not really understand what the connection is between me and this character, and why I am so driven to write her or him. Gradually, I find out that this character is really relevant for me and meaningful for me. Ora is not myself; we are very different from each other. But after having written her, I think I became her.
Guernica: In the note at the end you say that the book was largely completed before your son Uri’s death. Can you take me back to the day when you picked up work on the novel again after this tragedy? Can you explain the thoughts you had at the time and whether the tone or resolution of the novel changed, if at all?
David Grossman: The story line did not change. I thought that I should remain loyal to the story, that the story is not about the death of a son but rather about the anxiety from death. The book is not about death at all—it’s about life, and fear of death, which is a very typical combination for every Israeli family and for Israel as an idea, as a state.