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The People of Forever Are Not Afraid: A…
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The People of Forever Are Not Afraid: A Novel (original 2012; edição 2013)

por Shani Boianjiu

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2872271,615 (3.24)29
Three young women in Israel are conscripted into the army and struggle to stay friends as they see their lives change in unpredictable ways.
Título:The People of Forever Are Not Afraid: A Novel
Autores:Shani Boianjiu
Informação:Hogarth (2013), Paperback, 368 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
Etiquetas:novel, Israel, IDF

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The People of Forever Are Not Afraid por Shani Boianjiu (2012)

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Inglês (17)  Dinamarquês (2)  Holandês (2)  Sueco (1)  Todas as línguas (22)
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This was a difficult book to piece together. There were times I really liked it, found it powerful and heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious, but other times I just couldn't make sense of it (what was up with that rape episode towards the end?). This is a bleak and often cryptic first endeavor, examining the damaging effects of the mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Force. It was difficult to distinguish the girls from one another sometimes, but their negotiation of youth to adulthood amid military service floored me. I've never read anything about the female perspective in military service and conflict, and I wonder if there's really even much out there on it. While this book was not without it's flaws, I'm really intrigued by Boianjiu's style and will certainly look out for her future work. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
There's so much about this book that's fascinating and really unique, so I have to give it four stars even if the wheels came off towards the end and the book got weird and disturbing and there was no dramatic climax of any kind. By that point I was already reading it more as a short story collection than as a novel, so I just shrugged that off as the last few chapters not really hitting the mark.

The People of Forever are not Afraid is a book that follows three teenage girls from the same desolate northern Israeli town as they're thrust from their mundane, boring schoolkid lives into the military machine, and then their struggle to readjust to civilian life afterwards.

Shani Boianjiu's depictions of young adult life in Israel are unflinching and unsympathetic. Before I started, I'd been concerned that this book might offer a highly romanticised glimpse of what it's like to serve in the IDF, and I was relieved that it doesn't at all. Boianjiu's concern is not justifying anything the IDF does (and nor is it to condemn them, either); what she sets out to do is just depict what it's like to be an 18 or 19-year-old girl engulfed by this massive institution, and that's what makes this such an interesting book.

The book's trio of protagonists – Yael, Avishag and Lea – begin the book in the final year of high school. Yael narrates this first chapter, and introduces the other two girls. Avishag, her best friend, had a brother who killed himself shortly after completing his military service. Lea used to be another friend of theirs, but then ditched them to become “popular”. It's a curious mix of familiar teen drama tropes and the Israeli reality of militarism and death.

Naturally, the girls are assigned to different sections of the IDF. Avishag joins the IDF's only all-female combat division, which is stationed at the long-peaceful Egyptian border. Yael becomes a weapons instructor at a military base near Hebron. Lea is – much to her disgust – made to join the military police and sent to man a checkpoint in the West Bank, before a traumatic incident there prompts her to sign up for officer school instead.

The book takes the form of a series of vignettes, some of which are told from the perspectives of one-off characters outside the main trio. In general, the earlier ones are more focused and powerful while the coherency drops of dramatically towards the end. They explore many aspects of military life as well as the multitude of social issues Israel faces. Some examples that stick out in my memory would include:

· Yael describing with amusement how the Palestinian boys from the local village keep stealing small things from her base – a helmet here, a tin of moisturiser there, or some signs – in acts of harmless, petty resistance and then how Boris, who couldn't even shoot until she taught him, killing one of these Palestinian boys in what Yael feels is an act of cold blood
· Avishag's job, for a while, being to sit for hours at a time staring at a computer monitor showing a small stretch of the border fence with Egypt, in case anyone approaches
· Israel's hostility to asylum seekers – to the point that while the IDF is too morally pure to shoot them dead before they can cross the border into Israel, they will happily alert the Egyptians to make sure it's done
· how thoroughly the IDF scrutinises the Palestinians who wish to cross into Israeli-controlled territory for work, searching for any minor excuse in their paperwork to deny entry… but at the same time, how little they care to stop the smuggling of trafficked women into Israel over the Egyptian border
· the intense ethnic stratification of Israel, even within the Jewish population: for example, Avishag's parents met when they arrived in Israel, and were forced to stand around naked while Israeli authorities hosed them down with DDT, convinced that these “dirty” immigrants from the Arab world had bodies crawling with diseases; or there's Lea, who acts like she's better than the other girls in their small town because unlike them, she looks European; or there's the fact that the “cushier” positions in the IDF tend to be reserved for Ashkenazim, with Mizrahim given the grunt work of combat roles and checkpoints
· how utterly boring most days in the IDF are – so many days filled with smoking, gossiping and sex – until, occasionally, a war comes and people die. More than once in this book, a onetime lover of one of the girls is killed in combat, and they just have to shrug that off and keep moving. There's a point where one of the girls is contemptuous of people who allow themselves the indulgence of mourning someone's death for years and years, because as far as she's concerned that's a luxury she's never had.

The protagonists aren't exactly the most likeable people, either as schoolgirls (where they amuse themselves playing mean-spirited games) or after their service, which they emerge from damaged in various ways (resulting in some highly disturbing late chapters). A refrain of the book is don't judge us, which really applies to Israel and the IDF as much as it does to the girls at the narrative's centre. The thing is, they can plea to not be judged… but it's you as the reader who has to decide whether that's reasonable or not.

As I said at the beginning, the book does kind of fall apart in the last few chapters, which covers the girls in their (mostly) post-military lives. There are still some interesting tidbits there, mostly about how the girls had no solid sense of identity before serving and have ended up almost stunted, unable to form real senses of self, afterwards. But there are also long boring passages that seem pointless and other passages that are extremely messed up, but also confusing and they don't even seem to go anywhere. There's a late chapter where the girls are called up as reservists in the next war, and end up simply being held hostage on base by a group of younger male soldiers, which is particularly baffling in this sense.

But overall, I have to give this book four stars for being such an interesting, insightful description of the military machine in Israel. If you are at all interested in this topic, then despite its messiness and flaws this is a really rewarding read. ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
Spectacularly depressing. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
This was a grim read but one I'd still recommend. I appreciated rather than enjoyed the story, the relationships between the three girls, the utter boredom and despair of the town they lived in by the Lebanese border (to Jewify the Galilee in the words of one of the girls), the almost casual violence of their time in the army, the checkpoints, the border patrols, the hostility towards Mizrahi Jews in Israel, and the rampant sexism expressed in so much of their culture. It kind of falls apart toward the end, though there were some chapters that moved me to tears.

I'll be watching for more from Boianjui but it's a tough tough book. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Some books require work to read. They test your mind. Retrain it. Force you to think a little differently. Like learning a new language. While others are easier...you barely have to work at it, you can skim whole paragraphs and still know what's happening and often finish in a day, turning pages rapidly as if you are watching a tv show or movie and not reading or thinking at all, just gazing through a glass. This book is the former, not the later.

It is not a page-turner. It will not keep you up late at night reading. But you won't forget it five minutes later. It's not plot-driven, more character driven, and the characters are complicated and not always easy to like or identify with. They feel real. The story feels real as well. As if it is non-fiction not fiction. You feel as if you are there in the desert, looking at the olive trees. Not gazing safely through a glass at them.

It requires slow digestion and pulls you deep inside another person's perspective - with a stream of consciousness style that takes a while to get into the rhythm of, like learning a new language or a new composition of music. But it does require the right mood and frame of mind. It's also the type of book that works very well in Book clubs and English Lit courses - much to chew on.

Shani Boianjiu is quite ambitious. She plays with time and point of view. Her novel is told in various points of view and perspectives. The first portion in first person, the second in third person, and then back again. It's a tale told by multiple voices not just one, and as a result we see multiple perspectives on the central topic - which is what it is like to live on the West Bank of Israel in the early 21st Century during multiple mini-battles and a hard won truces. And her styles vary depending on the point of view she is in and when she is in it. She writes in the voice of the character without ever once falling into the trap of dialect or phonetics. You hear her characters speaking in your head.

The title of the book is from a bumper sticker one of the character's fathers see on the car in front of him - it is a metaphor for these characters lives - what it is like to live in Israel. It's like when you drive down the road and you see a weird bumper sticker in front of you and think, dang, that's my life, exactly. Here it is told in much the same way. The book is in a hyper-realistic post-modern style - depicting the harsh reality of Israel without the rose-colored glasses. Shani tells it like it is. No small detail is spared.

We are pulled into the lives of three women, from the age of 16, when they are still in school, to the age of 23, a year or two after they've finished their tour of duty in the Israeli Armed Forces. Lea, Yael, and Avishag. They come from different ethnicities, Yemen, Iraq, Eucador...but all are Jewish and all Israeli. They are friends in school, and their friendships change during the period of service, they fall in and out of them. Through them we see first hand what it is like to be female in this environment. How far we've come and how far we have yet to go. While they've been granted the right to serve in the armed forces, they are regulated boring, mindless jobs, while their male counterparts fight and die, often resenting them. In one chapter, after they've finished serving, male soliders take them captive and punish them for not being part of the War. It's a weird chapter that is told in a stream of consciousness almost surreal style that requires re-reading to determine what occurred and is in the first person narrative. Through it, the writer makes clear how traumatized and confused the narrator is, hence the surreal telling.

The book did not move me emotionally. There's an emotional distance or coldness in the telling. The writer has a "matter-of-fact" style to her writing that makes it difficult to related to her characters. You feel as if you are at arms length and perhaps that is for the best. Towards the end, it did begin to move and haunt me. For I found myself thinking, but for the grace of God, go I.
These women's lives are far from easy. But they suffer through with a bored pathos bordering on apathy.
It's almost as if they are asking towards the end is there any reason for this, any meaning here?
And perhaps what they fear most is the lack of it, the meaninglessness, the emptiness...that their lives are an emotional and spiritual desert. If this is true, what in fact are they fighting for?
And are they forever, and do they really want to be?

Not a book I'll forget any time soon. In some respects more horrifying due to its basis in reality than any horror novel I've read. The characters seem to have last their souls by the end of the novel, and are fighting with a listless sluggishness to get it back again. What an endless war does to us, what endless fighting for a cause we no longer understand, whose meaning seems to have ebbed ageas ago...and how constantly demonizing the enemy begins to chip away at us - is no better expressed than through these pages. It's a "Heart of Darkness" for the modern age.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart or hard of mind.

( )
  cmlloyd67 | Jun 7, 2015 |
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Three young women in Israel are conscripted into the army and struggle to stay friends as they see their lives change in unpredictable ways.

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823.92 — Literature English English fiction Modern Period 21st Century

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