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WEST JERUSALEM NOIR
by Maayan Eitan, ed. and Yardenne Greenspan, trans.
Akashic Books, November 2023
240 pages
$17.95
ISBN: 1617752290


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

(Editor's note: This volume in Akashic's City Noir series is paired with EAST JERUSALEM NOIR, a review of which also appears in this issue.)

Akashic Books's metropolitan noir series now boasts a massive catalogue of anthologies set in a vast array of American cities and around the world. If you're wondering what Sam Spade or the Continental Op would do in Zagreb, Lagos, Cleveland, or (I quote Akashic) "Indian Country," and--not the same book--"Native Noir") look no further. Noir as world tour is an odd choice for the modern world, because originally, noir is intensely Orientalist. It's not an accident that in The Maltese Falcon, trouble comes to San Francisco via ship from Hong Kong, and the criminal crew who pursue the Black Bird are mostly foreigners demonized by the American wartime press, including a Maltese aesthete, a pair of Germans, and a pathologically creative Irishwoman.

The latest installments in the series include EAST JERUSALEM NOIR and WEST JERUSALEM NOIR, which Akashic is advertising together. They don't go, respectively, with CAIRO NOIR and TEL AVIV NOIR. Instead, like Spade and Bridget O'Shaughnessy, they are locked in deadly conflict, an efficient, inseparable bundle of animosity. The result is interesting but, like some other installments of the series, only very loosely associated with film or prose noir.

WEST JERUSALEM NOIR edited by Maayan Eitan, makes more of an effort to conform to noir convention. It begins with a laundry list of noir staples: "a detective, a femme fatale... a dead body." As Eitan puts is, some contributors "avoid these genre staples," but all "sketch a dark imagined map where religious mystery dwells." I wasn't aware that there was anything metaphysical about the world of noir. The all-knowing being in the Continental Op stories is, well, the Continental Op, who is most definitely human.

Generically, WEST JERUSALEM NOIR also aspires to tragedy and travel writing. In Eitan's words, it "depicts some of the tragic outcomes of Israeli occupation" and gives readers "a chance to visit Jerusalem as they've never seen it before." I suppose it does. we learn from an IDF soldier's perspective that "combat assignment" is "not unlike the work done by the Judenrat in the Jewish ghetto," namely "assigning people to guard duty shifts," as Yiftach Ashkenazi writes in his ironically titled story "A Great Bunch of Guys." This tale also veers into Theatre of the Absurd. "After singing the song about Lebanon, where we'd never been, wishing death on the entire brigade, and then going into detail ('I wish all the commanders die...'), we also wanted the commanders and officers to die, if only because they treated us... like a track company." In the final story, Oded Wolfstein's "Just One Thing," the genre is supernatural horror crossed with heartwarming mysticism, as something inexplicable happens to porcine tourists in the West Jerusalem Central Bus Terminal.

This collection was compiled before 7 October 2023, so does not depict the horrors of life in Palestine or Israel since that day. However, it may help make people who are following the news to visualize parts of the countries involved.

Rebecca Nesvet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and co-edits Reviewing the Evidence.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, December 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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