Her Body Knows Two Novellas

David Grossman




Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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A Washington Post Best Book of the YearWinner of the Koret International Jewish Book Award In Frenzy, reserved, respectable Shaul lets his sister-in-law, Esti, into a secret nightmare as he reveals to her his conviction that his wife is having an affair. Along with Esti, we find ourselves trapped in his paranoia and desperation as we accompany the odd pair down Israel's highways on a journey that reveals a passion perverted by jealously and self-loathing.

In the title novella, a successful but embittered novelist visits her mother, who is in the last stages of cancer. Grossman investigates the powers of storytelling to harm and heal as the daughter reads aloud her own imagined, merciless account of her mother's love affair with a much younger teenage boy. Gradually it becomes clear that, for all its anger, the daughter's story and the writing process itself have led her to a new appreciation of her mother's difficult character, and her own.

Studies in obsession, claustrophobia, and the need to confess, these two novellas mark a new departure for a novelist who "has claimed a place in the front ranks of contemporary Israeli writers with his lyrical yet penetrating explorations of his fellow countrymen's psyches" (Time Out New York).


Praise for Her Body Knows

"[Grossman's] sentences are dizzying, intoxicating, and Jessica Cohen's translation captures their intricate intensity . . . Israel is present in these novellas . . . in the anxiety, the deep sense of claustrophobia, the retreat into the relative safety of the indoors. Though an Israeli writer need not directly address the political atmosphere that surrounds him, these concerns do seep, quietly and evocatively, into a book like Her Body Knows. The Israeli reality Grossman evokes is known as 'the situation'—in Hebrew hamatzav—a seemingly benign word that encompasses everything from the intifada to the security fence to the coming withdrawal from Gaza. 'The situation' is not a specific event but every event; it bleeds into every part of life. Grossman's fiction inhabits this uneasy place where the external realities of politics blend inextricably with, and become aspects of, the inner experience of individual people. He writes of marriage and desire, jealousy and motherhood, loyalty and betrayal, and all the while he is mapping an entire country's anxieties and longings. Rather than explicitly report the facts on the ground, Grossman constructs his own alternate reality, and the results are more startling, more immediate, more richly true in this 'situation'—in any situation."—Tova Mirvis, The New York Times Book Review

"Grossman is a talented writer—elegant, even luxurious. His new book should win him a wider audience, particularly among readers who appreciate flawless prose and an unsentimental take on family intimacy."—Judy Goldman, The Washington Post Book World

"[Her Body Knows] is all about love and jealously. From the very first sentence, [Grossman] enthralls the reader . . . Grossman's descriptions of sensuality and physicality, of desire and alienation, are surprising . . . [These novellas] are brilliant variations on an eternal human motif—and demonstrate once again that a life with books is simply more worthwhile."—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Versatile Israeli novelist/journalist Grossman provides two intense and engaging novellas that explore the intersecting planes of physical and imaginative being. The first depicts the hell of passion internalized as paranoia, detailing a man's obsessive, agonized imaginings about his wife's affair, which tensely unfold in dialog and fantasy during a lengthy car ride with his sister-in-law. The second, vastly compelling novella follows a writer inventively re-creating her dying mother's relationship with a young yoga student. This tale encompasses epic mother/daughter psychic battles, the struggle for autonomy forced upon the child of a powerful and gifted parent, and a vivid description of Hatha Yoga from the inside out ('She becomes focused, brimming with warmth inside; long threads of glowing tenderness flow through her limbs, and she walks around inside her body, inside the beautiful city of Brahma'). Grossman's work is graced with dynamic, flawed, and utterly believable characters and masterful internal and external dialogs. Deeply moving and beautifully written, this book is highly recommended."—Library Journal (starred review)

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David Grossman is the author of six novels, most recently Someone to Run With (2004); two works of journalism, The Yellow Wind (1988) and Sleeping on a Wire (1993); and a volume of collected commentary, Death as a Way of Life (2003). He lives in Jerusalem.
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  • David Grossman

  • David Grossman is the author of six novels and three works of nonfiction. He lives in Jerusalem.