Ronit Matalon’s Ethnic Masterpiece

Dvir Abramovich


Ronit Matalon’s debut novel The One Facing Us is at once a coming of age tale and an ambitious, impressionistic family roots saga rich in character and detail that plunges the reader into the sprawling past of an Egyptian family and its adventures in three continents. Through a medley of old photographs and fragments of letters, the 17 year-old rebellious heroine Esther, who is sent from Israel to live with her successful businessman uncle in Cameroon, manages to reconstruct her clan’s wondrous journeys and unearth its disintegration. Uniquely, each chapter is dappled with a family snapshot, followed by the narrator’s attempt to delineate the story within and without the frame. Intermingling post-modernist techniques with meditations on exile, cultural displacement and post colonialism, Matalon’s imaginative and fascinating book (feted by A. B Yehoshua as wonderful and sensitive and sensual) is a fine entry in the ever-growing Israeli canon of tribal-ethnic texts by women.

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