A Phantasm of Israel Among the Nations (1985)

The Therapy of Avram Blok

The first volume of the Saga of Avram Blok, child of the flotsam of Europe and the stewpot of modern Israel, troublemaker, dissenter and non-hero of our time. In war and between wars, from misdeed to disaster, from love to rejection, Blok ploughs his furrow, travelling from the Homeland to Paris, London and New York, returning again and again to the relative calm of the lunatic asylum on Jerusalem’s Hill of Evil Counsel…
Acclaimed on its release, the first Blok novel grew first into a trilogy, then spawned a fourth novel, and now extends to six books, the last two of which are to be published for the first time in this special edition of the entire Blok saga. In the new world of global turmoil, general crisis and collapsing certainties, it presents an audacious alternative, an act of literary rebellion that foresees further madness yet to come…

From the New York Times Book Review, by David Finkle, 17 November 1985:

Mr. Louvish has created his novel with the zest and generosity of a grandmother making stuffed cabbage, and he’s also done it with the glint and intensity of a physicist bent on finding a new, fun way to split the atom. Into it he’s thrown high and low (mostly low) humor… a subplot having to do with the exorcism of a wild boar (Satan? Judas Iscariot?) from subterranean Jerusalem and, overriding all, a politically angry peroration of a sort the Jerusalem Chamber of commerce won’t be excerpting for tourism brochures… the book succeeds as the hilarious wail of a stand-up comic delivering punch lines from the rubble. Mr. Louvish has enough combustible talent linked with Jewish spiritual and kabbalistic compulsion to earn the comparisons with Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut and Swift that have come his way… The apposite adjective in the long run will most likely be “louvish…”

From the first chapter:

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
– Mother

When They arrested Avram Blok for peeping, on 27th November 1967, the judge of the Jerusalem District Court, Justice Henrietta Ben-Horin, sent him to the Moses Klander Institute for twenty-eight days of psychiatric observation. Seven years later, to the day, Blok submitted himself voluntarily for treatment at Klander, presenting a unique complaint: he claimed to be living in an alternative historical epoch, in which Germany had been a wholly Communist state since 1923, Leon Trotsky had ruled Soviet Russia for forty-four years, and Adolf Hitler and colleagues had escaped to the United States, where Adolf eventually became a Senator for the State of Illinois and his son later ran for President on a third party ticket. In this fallacy the Second World War and the Holocaust had not taken place, Jews were living in their millions throughout Eastern Europe, and Palestine remained under shaky British control until 1973.

The creation of the State of Israel amid the Civil War of that year brought Blok partly back into line with Jerusalem reality, which is not, at the best of times, concomitant with the rest of the world. However, intercourse (purely verbal, at this stage) with his few remaining friends, showed him, so he said, that no one else seemed to share his hermetically deduced conviction. Doctor Flusser, re-checking Blok’s file, and after a futile attempt to persuade him to abandon his childish pretence of insanity, finally allowed him in for the usual one month’s observation. Blok, delighted, immediately sought out Nietzsche, Klander’s Eminent Inhabitant, and before the afternoon was out they were both engaged in a marathon game of parchesi. Flusser sighed, gathering his notes on “Neuroses of Our Time: The Immorality of Inhibition”. In the corridors of the asylum, the Forlorn gave voice, and, beneath their feet, the ground was deaf to the cries of those trapped in hidden depths. Outside, Jerusalem’s brief evening scarletly faded, the call of the muezzin choked off by a power-cut caused by a terrorist sabotage…

(Now read on…)