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Shtei Shilgiot.

Osnat Shtiebel and Bebe Verseno are girlhood friends from their early school days, although it is hard to say what keeps them together, for they are so different. Bebe was the queen of the senior class at Lady Davis High School in north Tel Aviv. Surrounded by a bevy of youngsters worshiping her body, she shares it with them like a bountiful goddess. On the other hand, Osnat (or "Shtiebel," as she calls herself) is anorexic, all skin and bones. In the country of dwarfs, the only person sensitive to her existence is "little" Noam, her confidant. When on one occasion he dares suggest that they too "do it" like everyone else and lose their virginity in each other's arms, neither of the two is brave enough to follow through. Besides, Osnat has a crush on the handsomest senior, Tal Spector. He takes no notice of her, however, and so she resorts to photographing him unawares. When in addition she picks up a lock of his hair at a hilarious public shearing, it helps her overcome her anorexia nervosa more than does the Freudian psychologist hired to cure her.

Now, thirteen years later, at the age of thirty, the two women have each turned into their physical opposites. Bebe is a voracious eater, "wears a bra as big as a tent," and looks like a cow, whereas Osnat is tall and beautiful--an ugly duckling turned into a swan. A successful commercial photographer, Osnat is assigned to do a portrait of the Pelleg Plastics family for a newspaper. When young Sharon Pelleg introduces himself, he strikes her as an exact duplicate of Tal Spector. Her studio and Sharon's flat are a few doors apart in the city's shady downtown area, with its drugs and prostitutes. He drops by to see her, and five minutes later "Shtiebel" finds herself in full regression to her wounded adolescence. Completely off-balance and against her better judgment, she follows him to his place, a decision which proves to be a fatal mistake. A harrowing experience and the discovery of Sharon's body in his flat a few days later bring the heroine to a re-examination of herself and all those around her. The novel turns into a mystery.

Throughout, Irit Linur plays with the themes of doubles and opposites. Her "Two Snow Whites" are not exactly alike. The theme of appearance and reality is also developed. The Pellegs appear to be a decent bourgeois family, judging from their photograph, but the truth is that they are a sham, with more than one skeleton hidden away in their closet, a fact that Osnat senses even while photographing them. They are disgusting. Most delightful, however, is the relationship (and courtship) between Osnat and Noam, who turns up again after many years abroad "in Boston and Paris." Osnat is no Kate the Shrew and Noam even less a Petruchio, but what delightful banter goes on between them! His dirty talk does not shock her, and she can give tit for tat. In fact, Osnat Shtiebel may well become a byword for the strong, independent Israeli woman who can confront machos squarely and, when necessary, strike a well-aimed blow at their vulnerable spots. She plays better basketball than Bebe's "dwarfs," who are bald and boring by the age of thirty and have nothing to talk about except "the good old army days." Their sexual performance is a caricature, and as for Bebe, she is aptly described as a "dead horse."

Linur, a militant feminist and a columnist for the Ha'aretz weekend supplement, does not hide her likes and dislikes either in her journalistic writing or here in her second novel. She has already won a place of her own among Israel's new novelists, and she shows great promise.

Dov Vardi Kibbutz Teachers College, Tel Aviv
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Author:Vardi, Dov
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1994
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