I have absolutely no interest in football and never have so I was slightly disappointed when his publishers told me that Eshkol Nevo‘s new novel would be published in time for the World Cup because of its subject matter. I had loved his first novel, Homesick, and thought pity the new one won’t be for me. But actually, I could not have been more wrong and this second book is even more accomplished, delightful to read, entertaining and moving than the first one. And this is not because he suddenly made me love football! I’m still in the resistance there. Actually the connection to the World Cup is simply a shared passion between four friends from the age when their meet, in their mid teens to the time when the novel is written in their late twenties, early thirties. They have decided at their last World Cup to write down three wishes they’d like to see fulfilled by the next one. They’ve each revealed one in three and as the date approaches, it seems clearer and clearer that things have not quite unfolded as they had wished.
The novel is fast paced and gripping. Some of it is very Israeli but anyone who has been in a tightly bound group of friends (or dreamt of being in one) will be touched by it. This is no lad lit but a very sensitive portrait of four young men at the point when great expectations are tempered by reality. Eshkol Nevo is definitely a rising star of Israeli literature.
As soon as I finished the book, I emailed Eshkol to ask him if he would come to JBW 2011 and whether he might agree to answer a few questions for our blog. Nice as he is, he said yes to both! So here are my lame questions and his lovely answers.
World Cup Wishes is the story of four male friends who have gone through the most formative years of their lives together. They are in the book at the stage following military service, travelling and university, when they really enter adulthood with more or less success.
You describe their relationship as a rarity which makes others quite envious. What gave you the idea to write this book?
I have my own bunch of friends. We have been together since high school and recently we started to disintegrate. That made me sad and also I was fascinated by this question: what starts a friendship and what ends it?
The narrator has lived through a very traumatic incident during his military service. Israeli men have a much tougher experience than say young Brits or Americans. What do you think are the long term effects? How representative are your 4 characters of the different possible roads?
This is a book about a non-army friendship. It was important to me to write about men who are not soldiers and not surviving together, because usually, in Israeli culture, male friendship is connected to the army. Having said that – all the characters indeed have an army service in their background. For some it was traumatic. For others a source of pride. I think masculinity in Israel is changing and the book reflects it.
Can you tell us something about writing the book? Your first novel was written in a multiplicity of voices. In this one, we are reading the story as told by one of the friends but with footnotes from another, questioning the narrator’s reliability. I would love to know more about the choices you made?
I started with one narrator but than I began to suspect: does he really know all the truth? so I added footnotes, undermining his authority. All in all the writing process of this book was definitely the most carefree and rapid I ever had. The characters just moved along and I documented it.
The narrator writes his book to give a pattern to their lives. Isn’t that the role of the writer in general?
One of them I guess. Actually I think he writes to stay alive. This is the only thing he finds meaningful.
With Israel not playing in the World Cup (any hope for the next one by the way?), who were you supporting?
Israel will never play in the World Cup! We are so lousy in football! The Israeli football team is more a comedy than a tragedy. Anyway, I supported Argentina until yesterday, and now I have to find another team (no point in watching football – or writing – if you dont have emotion involved in it).
Last but not least, what are your three wishes that you would like to see realised by the next World Cup?
1. my daughters will grow up healthy and happy
2. two more novels published
3. reasonable, brave and willing to compromise leadership in Israel
We can only hope that Eshkol’s wishes will be fullfilled. Why not send us your three wishes you’d like to see realised by the next World Cup.