Nevo, Eshkol. “The Last Interview: A Novel”, Translated by Sondra Silverston, Other Press, 2020.
When the Public Persona Cracks
A writer attempts to answer a set of interview questions sent to him by a website editor. At first, they seem to be usual: “Did you always know you would be a writer? How autobiographical are your books? Have you written any stories you would never publish?” Usually the answers he gives as measured, calculated and cautious. This time, however, he finds he cannot tell anything but the truth.
Every question opens a door to a hidden room of his life and each answer reveals that at the heart of every truth, there is a lie—and vice versa. We see just how tenuous the lines are between work and life, love and hate, fact and fiction. As we explore the author’s identity, Eshkol Nevo’s “The Last Interview” gives us “a nuanced, thought-provoking portrait of a country at odds with itself.”
We read of the dramatic consequences of Israel’s wrong turns and disavowals and its betrayal of what “the promised land” was originally meant to be. By building a wall to keep Palestinians out of sight, Israel has done more than damage to its calling itself a democratic country and has also affected the sense of purpose and integrity of its citizens. Nevo shows a literary confidence that allows him to view human nature and its habitus with ease and in-depth insight. We read of the paradoxes of love, friendship, parenthood, narcissism, professional success or failure, and the compromises that mirror Israel’s situation.
Nevo pushes the boundaries of fiction and challenges the reader to reconsider their conceptions of the relationship between truth and fiction. The book is astory of loss, love, and friendship and a meditation on the borders between reality and fiction. Nevo writes about his reflectionson what bothers the human heart— love, truth, friendship, loss. We, in turn, consider how long we will be here in the world.
What emerges is that the subject of the novel, the author’s professional life is a combination of international book tours and teaching seminars for promising writers. He has lost touch with himself and, perhaps, with reality. His personal life is a mess and he is depressed. He has only two close friends: one who is terminally ill and the other has disappeared. He and his wife have grown apart and his marriage is in danger. His oldest daughter, has left home to go to a boarding school and he feels estranged from her. He has been looking at the people around him as possible characters rather than people. He can no longer distinguish between what they are and what he wants them to be. He fictionalizes stories about the people in his life and loses track of what is real and what is made up. He now has writer’s block and the only thing he can write is this series of answers to questions.
Like the narrator who cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, neither is the reader able to do so. We never know if Nevo is writing about a fictional author or about himself. The narrator states that he is falsifying things when convenient so that even if we assume that the narrator is Nevo himself, much of what he writes is fiction. — which is what one would expect from an author who can no longer distinguish between fact and fiction. He eventually finds a resolution to his problems but the readers, do not. We are left to think about what is real here.