Cultural Thought

Our focus for this second forum on Ten Thousand Lovers is the relationship of Lily and Ami, and even though this relationship ends in tragedy with Ami’s death – the contours, dialogue, and intimacy of their relationship provides us with a lingering intensive ambience that is cast in pallor to the issues of Israeli nationalism and dynamics of belonging. The intertwining of the intimate and the political through the love of this couple poses degrees of transcending nationalism. Yitzhak Laor writes in his review, “Torture in the bedroom,” “This is a novel about the love between a man and a woman, which naturally involves a physical relationship, but physical politics – the attempt to control the bodies and minds of detainees, young and old – is also something of which we are kept constantly aware. Ravel’s strength lies not only in fantasizing about her fabulous Israeli, but in allowing the menacing and the horrible to become part of her portrait of Israeli life.” In this manner, it could be suggested that the “menacing and horrible” aspects of the political are given a different treatment in the discursive exchanges and body language through the relationship of Lily and Ami that provides a different sense of candor and ordinariness of how Israeli life can be understood and interpreted. This is very vital to bring more fully into exfoliation for this forum. Laor writes further, “The best parts of the book are those in which Lily, a student from Canada who was born on a kibbutz in the Galilee and left the country with her parents as a child, talks to Ami about his work. The beauty of it is that while they are in bed, in the living room, on hikes, at parties or sharing a joint, hovering over them is the hideous monster of torture (investigated in depth by The Sunday Times in 1972, but denied by the Israeli embassy on the grounds that the Bible forbids torture. If the public became aware of the problem at all, it was only in 1985, although since then public interest – not the practice – has subsided). This presence of torture in the bedroom, mingling with the couple’s intimate moments, is not described melodramatically: They don’t quarrel over their “differences of opinion.” But the truth is, they don’t really disagree.” This sense of “torture in the bedroom,” looms as the elephant in the room throughout this novel, that also serves as a discursive tension between intimate/public degrees and how political realities can become distant from, or taint personal relationships within the shadow of what serves the nation and “who” belongs. It is also these issues that we need to deeply delve into in our discussion forum. In this post, focus on the relationship of Lily and Ami in the novel, and with at least two direct quotations from the text, establish an evocative sense of how the private/intimate degrees of their relationship is figured within the strains of Israeli nationalism. Please bear in mind, and feel free to refer the issues I stress in the introduction to this forum, and also the review by Yitzhak Laor. Within your post also discuss how their relationship illustrates problems or issues of language/nation, culture/identity, and dynamics of belonging. Lastly, analyze this citation from the closing of the novel, and in your own words explain what Ravel is suggesting, and how this relates to the significance of the title Ten Thousand Lovers, within how the idea of the title is expanded upon in this penultimate section of the novel. Ravel writes, “And you go back to your studies, eventually, in London, and you expand your field of research to include Hebrew and Arabic, and your daughter, whose name is Amit, has an English accent and you don’t remarry. Every summer Ami’s sister visits you with her two, then three, then four children. You don’t talk about politics, you don’t talk about the past. You go with her to the museum and you look at the Bathers at Asnieres and you don’t mention Lebanon or the intifadas or the failed peace talks or the new shopping malls in Tel Aviv. But you follow the news from Israel and Palestine, year by year, slaughter by slaughter. In the back of your mind, you plan one day to return (283-4).”

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