The Jerusalem Post

‘Grossman’ is a joyful filmed look at the acclaimed Israeli author

- • By HANNAH BROWN

Grossman, which is showing at Docaviv, the Tel Aviv Internatio­nal Documentar­y Festival (docaviv. co.il/2021-en) that runs from July 1-10 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheq­ue (and other venues around the city) as well as online, is a graceful look at one of Israel’s most acclaimed authors and a joy from start to finish.

The movie will premiere on July 2 and will be shown several more times during the festival. It will also be broadcast on KAN 11, which was among the producers of the film, on a date to be announced.

It is one of a number of films about the arts at Docaviv this year. Director Adi Arbel avoids all the pitfalls of convention­al documentar­ies about writers by simply letting Grossman be himself. The movie mixes interviews with footage of him at a meeting with several of his translator­s from around the world; on a visit to a rural area of Croatia to do research for his book More Than I Love My Life, the English translatio­n of which will be published in August; footage from a documentar­y about Grossman’s visits to the West Bank as research for his nonfiction work The Yellow Wind; clips of interviews and lectures he has given over the years; and home movies and photograph­s of his family; as well as a few joint interviews with him and his wife.

While you may have heard and read a great deal about

Grossman, one aspect of the documentar­y that you will not find elsewhere is the opportunit­y to hear him reading from his own works, which he does with great eloquence.

Rather than show literary experts extolling the virtues of his books – tributes that so often add little to what viewers already know – Arbel allows Grossman to talk about the inextricab­le connection­s between his life and his work.

While there are many distinguis­hed Israeli writers, Grossman is perhaps Israel’s most surprising

author, one whose work takes off in unpredicta­ble directions. His books are uniquely Israeli but have touched readers all over the world. They have been translated into dozens of languages, and in 2017, he was awarded the Man Booker Internatio­nal Prize (along with his translator, Jessica Cohen) for his novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar. Superficia­lly, the outlines of his life sound ordinary, but as the documentar­y makes clear, his perception­s of life and how he has made use of them in his writing are extraordin­ary.

Born in Jerusalem to a modest family, Grossman discusses how he discovered a deep connection to the Jewish past through reading Sholem Aleichem. When he became interested in the Holocaust, it felt real to him because of his connection to Aleichem’s characters. He speaks about his consciousn­ess of death at an early age and how it shattered him but also pushed him to write. While he was always drawn toward writing, he says, having a family often pushed him out of that comfort zone. In photos of him on trips and hikes with his young children, he often sits and writes, sometimes using his sun hat for a desk.

The film makes it clear how the tug-of-war between solitary writing and the demands of a family mirrors his struggle to embrace life while remaining aware of the reality of death. The saddest but also the most riveting section of the film is when he, sometimes alone and sometimes with his wife, talks about his son Uri’s death. Uri Grossman was a soldier who was killed in action toward the very end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Bizarrely, he had almost finished writing a novel about a woman who goes on a journey to avoid getting news of her soldier son’s death that she is sure is coming.

At the shiva for Uri, Grossman tells how he was approached by Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, and told them that he was planning to give up working on the book.

“The book will save you,” he recalls one of them telling him, and it became To the End of the Land, which many consider to be his greatest work.

The documentar­y also looks briefly at Grossman’s career as a writer of children’s books, and in this category as well he is one of Israel’s finest authors. Many years ago, I met him at a party and told him I had just read one of his Itamar books to my sons, which they loved.

“I put half of Israel to sleep every night,” he joked. That same quality of modesty mixed with humor shines through the movie.

 ??  ?? DAVID GROSSMAN (Kan 11 and Docaviv/Ofer Inov)
DAVID GROSSMAN (Kan 11 and Docaviv/Ofer Inov)

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